Abortion will be debated by lawmakers again during a special legislative session planned for April, but discussion will be limited to making sure women who end their pregnancies can't be charged with murder.
Gov. Norm Bangerter decided to add the issue to the special session agenda in response to criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union about the state's new law, according to his press secretary, Francine Giani."No problem. No big deal. We'll take care of it," Giani said.
Last Sunday, the ACLU took out a full-page ad in the New York Times saying that women having an abortion in Utah could be shot under the restrictive legislation approved by lawmakers earlier this year.
"In Utah, they know how to punish a woman who has an abortion. Shoot her," the ad read, a reference to execution by firing squad for a crime carrying the death penalty.
The ACLU already had pointed out to state officials that under Utah's criminal homicide law, both a woman having an abortion and the doctor who performed it could be charged with murder.
The 1983 law defines criminal homicide as causing the death of another human being, including an unborn child, except in the cases of a legal abortion. Utah's new abortion law makes most abortions illegal.
"We have no interest in penalizing women who make that choice. That was not the intent of the language in the first place," Giani said, calling the ACLU claim "crazy."
She said the discussion of the issue at the upcoming special session will be limited to correcting what she termed an oversight, unless further problems with the law are found.
Some concerns have been raised about whether the references in the law to rape and incest are clear enough, Giani said, and those may have to be dealt with as well.
The law, considered the toughest in the nation, outlaws abortions except in cases where a mother's health is endangered, a fetus is gravely deformed or in reported instances of rape or incest.The ACLU has pledged to seek an injunction against the law. The governor said has said the law will not be enforced unless it is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. It could take years for the law to reach the high court.
The special session of the Legislature is expected to begin April 17, if GOP leaders agree. Leaders of the Republican-dominated House and Senate were to meet with the governor Tuesday to set the date.
Bangerter originally intended to limit the agenda of the special session to bonding. Lawmakers failed to pass a bonding bill to pay for building new state facilities before they had to adjourn on Feb. 28.