Saying Utah has "declared war on women," the local chapter of the National Organization for Women said Saturday it will organize an international economic boycott of the Beehive State, including an attempt to scuttle the state's bid for the Winter Olympics.
Local NOW board members unanimously approved a resolution calling for a worldwide boycott of Utah in response to Gov. Norm Bangerter's signing of the nation's toughest abortion law more than a week ago."We believe the governor and the Legislature have underestimated the anger and resolve of people who believe women should be able to control their own bodies," Rebecca Elliott, executive coordinator for Utah NOW, said at a press conference following the vote.
Elliott said NOW's national office supports the boycott, but an official endorsement won't come until national board's meeting in April.
Using the slogan "Say no to Utah: The back-alley abortion state," Utah NOW will embark on a campaign encouraging people and organizations worldwide not to come to Utah for vacations, conventions or other events. NOW will urge business and industry not to locate in Utah and encourage people to write to Ban-gerter and lawmakers urging the repeal of the law, SB23.
If it is not repealed, NOW members will pronounce Feb. 27, when lawmakers adjourn, a day of mourning and hold a vigil on the Capitol steps that night.
Asked why the women's organization is attacking economic growth where its members live, Elliott said, "Our state has declared war on women. They (lawmakers) do not care about women's rights or women's health."
SB23 would permit abortion only when the mother's life is endangered, the fetus has grave physical defects, or where the pregnancy results from rape or incest reported to authorities.
The law won't go into effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on it, which experts predict will take two years or more. The local American Civil Liberties Union has said it will file a lawsuit against the state over the law within 60 days.
But as the state spends an estimated $1 million defending the law in the federal courts, Utah NOW hopes to make its views felt on Utah's economic development front.
Although the resolution doesn't specifically target Utah's Olympic bid, Elliott said efforts to hurt Utah's chances to get the 1998 Olympics are also on NOW's agenda.
The organization didn't disclose how it will get people to boycott Utah or influence the International Olympic Committee's selection, but it said it will work within NOW's national network and other organizations that have committed support.
"We have been returning phone calls from throughout the United States from people wanting to help us," said Utah NOW action coordinator Janece Vouk, noting NOW has even received encouragement from members of the local tourist industry.
Asked to identify supporters, she recommended calling Deer Valley Resort. But Deer Valley said it won't take any position on the abortion issue.
"A boycott would concern us. I don't see how skiing and abortion have anything to do with each other," said the resort's director of marketing, Bob O'Neill.
Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce president Fred S. Ball fears the boycott could affect conventions and tourism. "Personally, I wish the Legislature would have passed a more restrictive bill, then the governor would have vetoed it and we could forget about this thing. But Utah does dumb things sometimes."
But Ball, who is also vice chairman of the state's Olympic Bid Committee, said he doesn't see the boycott having much effect on the state's chances of hosting the Winter Games.
"The IOC won't let politics get dragged into their decision," he said.
Elliott said NOW has nothing against the Olympics or economic development, but the organization targeted those areas to let lawmakers know they made a tragic mistake.
"Unfortunately the Legislature didn't listen to our arguments that women will die from this legislation. We are hoping they will listen to our arguments that this will damage the state" economically.