Leaders of the Utah Association of Women said Monday that they will counter a boycott threatened by a group opposed to the state's new, restrictive abortion legislation.

Susan Roylance, president-elect of the 300 member group, said the press conference Monday was in response to an announcement over the weekend by the Utah chapter of the National Organization for Women.Members of the local NOW board said they will urge conventioneers, vacationers and even Olympic athletes to stay away from Utah because Gov. Norm Bangerter last week signed the nation's toughest abortion law.

"We feel a statement needs to be made that the Legislature did represent the women of Utah," Roylance said, adding that the group applauds lawmakers and the governor for approving the bill.

"As women, and mothers, we appreciate this effort by our Legislature to help protect the young women of Utah from those who would become wealthy through the destruction of unborn children as many of these young women are not aware of the future physical and mental problems which can follow an abortion," she said.

The Utah Association of Women's statement will take the form of letters to like-minded groups nationwide that will endorse the state's stand on abortion and encourage their members to come to Utah.

"We are writing letters to pro-family organizations throughout the United States and inviting them to support our courageous state leaders by visiting Utah for their summer or winter vacations," Roylance said.

The letter has not yet been written, but the Utah Association of Women said in a news release that it wants to invite families from all parts of the world to visit Utah, where "we celebrate nature and believe life is sacred."

The association also takes exception to the effect the boycott by the local NOW will have on Utah's chances of being selected the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. The site selection will be made in June.

"We also cannot imagine that a winter Olympics committee would require the destruction of unborn children to be a part of the site-selection process," the association's release says.

Roylance estimated it will be sent to more than 100 organizations, although she said a mailing list has not been compiled. She said it should be mailed sometime next month, after she becomes the association's president.

The bill approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor in the same week permits abortion only when the mother's health is in jeopardy, the fetus has grave physical defects or the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

Bangerter said the legislation will not be enforced until it is ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court. That probably will take at least two years, according to Bangerter's legal counsel on the abortion issue.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah already has promised to seek an injunction against the state to enjoin the bill before it becomes law 60 days after the legislative session ends on Feb. 27.

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To visit or not to visit

Using the slogan "Say no to Utah: The back-alley abortion state," the Utah affiliate of the National Organization for Women announced Saturday that it will embark on a campaign encouraging people and organizations world-wide not to come to Utah for vacations, conventions or other events.

"We are writing letters to pro-family organizations throughout the United States and inviting them to support our courageous state leaders by visiting Utah for their summer or winter vacations" -- Utah Association of Women statement Monday.