Though no one can say for sure, there will probably have to be changes in Utah's abortion legislation for it to be declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Attorneys, experts and interested people gathered Friday to discuss abortion and other issues at the Ninth Annual State and Local Government Conference at the Excelsior Hotel in Provo.Wayne McCormick, University of Utah professor of law, and Richard Wilkins, Brigham Young University professor of law, led the abortion discussion.
Both agreed that one probable way to make Utah's abortion legislation agreeable is to include a "time-based approach."
According to Wilkins, this is "some period during pregnancy when (the woman) can choose to have an abortion for any reason."
Then, at an agreed-upon time, stricter rules for abortion would take effect, further restricting but not eliminating the possibility for an abortion.
After consultation with medical professionals, Wilkins said he has come up with a 10-week cutoff point.
"It's not the perfectly rational line," he said. "But it is a reasonable line."
He said that at approximately 10 weeks, the only difference between the fetus and a newborn infant is the amount of maturation. In fact, it is at about 10 weeks that the embryo becomes a fetus.
McCormick said the idea of a time-based compromise shows that people have become more concerned with the fetus over the past 20 years. But that doesn't mean the mother has become less important.
For an abortion law to be considered constitutional, Wilkins said, it must address both pro-choice and pro-life issues.
"Without a time-period clause, there is really no way to balance the interests," McCormick said.
North Dakota's passage earlier this week of a law stricter than the Utah measure - in which abortion is permissible only in the case of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger - does not change much.
Wilkins said that law is "dead in the water" because it does not take into account the mental and physical health of the mother.
"Many other nations have adopted a time-based approach," he said. "With this compromise, most people will be happy, not all of them, but at least most of them."