Ask Utah legislators what they think of the abortion question and you can see them wince.
It is a tough, no-win issue, one Gov. Norm Bangerter and the 104 lawmakers will have to deal with this session.After a short but disquieting discussion last year, legislators created a task force to study abortion. They hoped for some kind of compromise.
But there's little compromise to be found on this emotional issue. The task force took a hard line, not outlawing abortions completely, but severely restricting them.
The task force bill would outlaw abortions except in the cases of rape or incest, properly reported, where the life of the mother is in danger or where the unborn child is so deformed it couldn't survive birth. To get an abortion following a rape, the woman has to report the rape to police within five days of the attack, a too restrictive time period, some believe.
Bangerter believes the task force bill, as written, wouldn't be upheld by the Utah Supreme Court.
In a tough State of the State address Monday, the governor said he'd veto any bill he believes will fail constitutional muster. He didn't name the task force bill, but aides say he was talking about it.
Bangerter's veto threat - the first he's ever made as governor - is a gutsy attempt to form the abortion debate and head off what he considers "unreasonable" debate.
What amendments Bangerter will suggest are unclear. Bud Scruggs, his chief of staff, says legislators will be made clearly aware of the governor's objections before any abortion bill is passed. Scruggs professes Bangerter won't suggest specific language but will send task force bill sponsors a law review article written by BYU law professor Richard Wilkins outlining what Wilkins believes may be acceptable to the high court.
Whatever amendments are made to the task force bill, watch for the addition of the words "health of the mother."
Allowing abortions for health of the mother broadens the law and may be acceptable to the justices.
In speaking about the emotional abortion issue, Bangerter said it's natural for lawmakers to consider their God-given insights and morals.
About 80 percent of legislators are faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so will naturally be influenced by their religion's stand on this moral issue.
LDS Church officials re-issued a stand on abortion last weekend, adding that the church doesn't support or oppose any specific legislation.
The church has long condemned abortions, and reaffirmed that opposition. However, the church does recognize some exceptions - cases involving rape or incest; when the life or health of the woman is adjudged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy; or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
Thus, by comparison, the task force bill - which doesn't include the "health of the mother" exception, is stricter than the church's stand.
Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, co-sponsor of the task force bill, says he's willing to look at including "health of the mother" in his bill. But he warns that that exception must be narrowly defined.
If "health of the mother" could become a catch-all phrase allowing a woman to get an abortion for any reason, Olsen said he'd oppose it.
If a political consensus can be reached, abortion may move quickly and relatively quietly through the House and Senate. But that may not be possible. Abortion will be heard from again this session.