Abortion will not be restricted in Utah while a controversial law being called the toughest in the nation makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a process that could take two years or more.
Calling it "a mainstream attempt to protect the sanctity of life without trampling upon the legitimate interests of women," Gov. Norm Bangerter signed SB23 on Friday, just hours after it won final approval from the Legislature.Although the bill will go into effect 60 days after the legislative session ends on Feb. 27, the governor said it will not be enforced unless it is upheld by the Supreme Court.
"It's very clear this is something that has to go before the court before it's enforced," Bangerter told the dozens of local and national reporters who jammed his office to watch the signing.
The governor gave the bill a 50-50 chance of being upheld by the Supreme Court, which he said "has clearly indicated its willingness to entertain regulations that are nominally unconstitutional. . . .
"The Supreme Court will never have the opportunity to follow up on that invitation unless a statute such as the one I will now sign is presented to them," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has committed to start the legal battle by seeking an injunction against the bill before it is scheduled to take effect.
That lawsuit likely will be filed within a month, said Michele Parish-Pixler, executive director of the ACLU of Utah. She said the New York-based National ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project has agreed to help with the case, which she estimated could end up costing Utah $1 million if the state loses.
Opponents of the bill are concerned Utahns will think the bill signing means abortion is now illegal. They fear some women will try to end pregnancies themselves, jeopardizing their health and possibly their lives.
Bud Scruggs, the governor's chief of staff, doesn't believe there will be any confusion. "Every doctor in Utah will know what the law is," Scruggs said.
Another issue opponents of the bill are raising is the effect Utah's position as a leader in the fight to further restrict abortion might have on tourism, including the effort to bring the 1998 Winter Games to Salt Lake.
Tackling the abortion issue "could have serious negative impact to our economy," the executive director of the Park City Area Chamber of Commerce, Russell Veenema, told the governor in a letter.
Proponents of the bill - many of whom wish it were more restrictive - said they are pleased Utah is taking the lead to stop at least some abortions. Rosa Goodnight, director of Right to Life of Utah, labeled the bill a victory.
House debate Thursday afternoon and Senate action Friday morning showed that some lawmakers, especially the Democrats, were concerned about making Utah the anti-abortion leader of the nation.
"What I'm hearing from my constituents is that the people of Utah just don't want to spend $1 million on this, plain and simple," said Sen. George Mantes, D-Tooele.
How legislators voted on abortion bill
How Utah legislators voted on the final version of the bill to restrict abortions. It was signed by Gov. Norm Bangerter on Friday.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
David M. Adams, R-Monticello Jeff Alexander, R-Provo
Lee Allen, R-Tremonton Irby N. Arrington, R-Cottonwood Heights
John B. Arrington, D-Ogdgen Kelly C. Atkinson, D-West Jordan
Walt Bain, R-Farmington Robert W. Bishop, R-Brigham City
Stephen M. Bodily, R-Lewiston, Cache Richard J. Bradford, R-Sandy
Afton B. Bradshaw, R-Salt Lake Glen E. Brown, R-Coalville
Melvin R. Brown, R-Midvale Kim R. Burningham, R-Bountiful
R. Lee Ellertson, R-Orem Beverly Evans, R-Altamont, Duchesne
R. Mont Evans, R-Riverton Christine R. Fox, R-Lehi
Lloyd W. Frandsen, R-South Jordan Kevin S. Garn, R-Layton
Brent H. Goodfellow, D-West Valley City Ronald J. Greensides, D-South Salt Lake
Byron L. Harward, R-Provo J. Brent Haymond, R-Springville
Neal B. Hendrickson, D-West Valley City Fred R. Hunsaker, R-Logan
J. Reese Hunter, R-Holladay R. Haze Hunter, R-Cedar City
Jerrold S. Jensen, R-Salt Lake Brad Johnson, R-Aurora, Sevier
Darrell L. Jorgensen, D-Midvale Donald R. LeBaron, R-Highland
Nancy S. Lyon, R-Bountifuls Craig Moody, R-Sandy
Joseph M. Moody, R-Delta Tim Moran, D-Spanish Fork
Merrill F. Nelson, R-Grantsville Norm L. Nielsen, R-Orem
Ray Nielsen, D-Fairview, Sanpete David S. Ostler, R-Salt Lake
Dan Q. Price, R-Vernal Grant D. Protzman, D-North Ogden
Raymond W. Short, R-Salt Lake Robert A. Slack, R-Washington
Ann T. Smedley, R-Bountiful Martin R. Stephens, R-Farr West, Weber
Jordan Tanner, R-Provo Phil H. Uipi, R-Salt Lake
John L. Valentine, R-Orem Michael G. Waddoups, R-Salt Lake
V. DeMont Wiberg, D-Roy Bill Wright, R-Elberta
James F. Yardley, R-Panguitch
Byron F. Anderson, D-Riverdale Bob Anderton, D-Taylorsville
Vernon R. Borgeson, D-Clearfield Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake
Mike Dmitrich, D-Price Haynes R. Fuller, D-Eden, Weber
Dionne P. Halverson, D-Ogden Joseph L. Hull, D-Hooper
Arlo D. James, D-Kearns David M. Jones, D-Salt Lake
Paula F. Julander, D-Salt LakeJoanne R. Milner, D-Salt Lake
Evan L. Olsen, R-Young Ward, Cache Kurt E. Oscarson, D-Sandy
Frank R. Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake Allan C. Rushton, D-West Valley City
Daniel H. Tuttle, D-West Valley City Gale E. Voigt, D-Syracuse
Blaze D. Wharton, D-Salt Lake Max W. Young, D-Murray
Ted D. Lewis, D-Salt Lake Janet Rose, D-Salt Lake
Delpha Baird, R-Holladay Haven Barlow, R-Layton
Lane Beattie, R-Bountiful Arnold Christensen, R-Sandy
Fred Finlinson, R-Salt Lake Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan
John Holmgren, R-Bear River City Dixie Leavitt, R-Cedar City
LeRay McAllister, R-Orem Dix McMullin, R-South Jordan
Alarik Myrin, R-Altamont Glade Nielsen, R-Roy
Ronald Ockey, R-Salt Lake Cary Peterson, R-Nephi
Chuck Peterson, R-Provo Craig Peterson, R-Orem
Stephen Rees, R-Bennion David Steele, R-West Point
Boyd Storey, R-Eden
Rex Black, D-Salt Lake Omar Bunnell, D-Price
Paul Fordham, D-Taylorsville Scott Howell, D-Salt Lake
George Mantes, D-Tooele Eldon Money, D-Spanish Fork
Millie Peterson, D-West Valley City Winn Richards, D-Ogden
Karen Shepherd, D-Salt Lake Robert Steiner, D-Salt Lake
Utah's new abortion law, which probably won't be enforced until ruled legal by the U.S. Supreme Court, would prohibit abortions except:
- Where the mother's life is endangered.
- Where the mother would suffer a life-threatening injury because of the pregnancy.
- To prevent grave damage to the mother's health.
- If the fetus would be born with grave defects.
- Where the pregnancy results from rape or incest, the attack is reported to authorities and the abortion is performed within the first 20 weeks of the pregnancy.
Violation of the law by a doctor or other person performing an abortion, other than a woman performing an abortion on herself, is punishable by up to a $3,000 fine and zero to five years in prison.