Local American Civil Liberties Union officials demanded on Monday a personal apology from Utah's governor and legislators for passing a strict anti-abortion bill that has caused national controversy.
Sparks flew Sunday when the ACLU placed a full-page ad in The New York Times soliciting money and support in its fight against Utah's abortion bill.The advertisement, which ran in the paper's Week in Review section, focuses on what bill sponsors said is an accidental loophole in the law that could subject a woman who has an abortion to the death penalty.
"In Utah, they know how to punish a woman who has an abortion," reads the ad's banner headline. "Shoot her."
A spokesman for Gov. Norm Bangerter, who signed the abortion bill Jan. 25, called the ad an "act of fraud."
"From time to time, people in American ask themselves how low will the ACLU stoop. With this ad we can say, officially, there are no limits," said Bangerter's chief of staff, Bud Scruggs.
"The ad is a vulgar attempt to raise money. If the people of New York City fall for it, I guess they get what they deserve. It's a city where getting hustled on the street is a daily occurrence."
The local ACLU executive director not only defended the ad Monday but urged state officials to stop "yelling and whining about people being told the truth about Utah laws."
"Obviously the ad struck a nerve in the governor's office," said Michele Parish. "If they (legislators) don't want people to hear unpleasant things about Utah, then they should stop passing absurd laws."
Parish said when Utah set out to be the "test case of the nation, it opened the door for scrutiny."
Certainly, The New York Times provided that scrutiny.
The Times carried a story March 9 pointing out that a woman who obtains an abortion could be subject to a 1983 amendment to the homicide statutes making illegal abortions murder. The ACLU ad adopts that criticism.
"A woman who has an abortion could be sentenced to the death penalty," the ACLU advertisement reads. "In Utah, that means the firing squad. (Or she may choose lethal injection as an alternative.)"
But Scruggs discounts the possibility of prosecuting a woman who has had an abortion. In fact, he said the homicide statute was passed to protect women. Sponsors said the problem is an oversight they will repair during a special session next month.