Another full-page newspaper ad demanding the repeal of Utah's tough new abortion law is scheduled to run the day before lawmakers meet to consider several changes in the 3-month-old legislation.
The Utah Pro-Choice Coalition, whose members include the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, is paying about $3,000 to run the advertisement in the Salt Lake Tribune next Tuesday.The national ACLU ran a full-page ad condeming the new law in the New York Times last month. That ad warned that women who have abortions in Utah face the death penalty, a reference to a provision in the state's homicide law.
Gov. Norm Bangerter responded to the New York Times ad by adding the issue to the agenda of the special session of the Legislature set to be held on Wednesday.
Since the ad ran last month, the governor's office has received more than 500 letters criticizing the new law. Most of the letters are from New York and California, according to the governor's press secretary, Francine Giani.
"Repeal Utah's Deadly Abortion Laws," is the headline planned for the local coalition's ad. It will reiterate the New York Times ad claim that women who have abortions in Utah could be subject to murder charges.
"The law's sponsors now admit that imposing murder charges was a colossal blunder . . . ," the proposed ad states, "Making abortion a crime is the real mistake. The only way to correct the mistake is to repeal the entire law."
A rally is scheduled for noon on Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda, according to the ad copy submitted by the coalition. Also expected to appear is a request for donations to help pay for the ad.
"What we're really trying to get across is that there are monumental problems with the bill," said Mary Carlson, director of community services for Planned Parenthood, one of the groups in the coalition.
The most-publicized problem with the bill is that the 1983 criminal homicide law defines criminal homicide as causing the death of another human being, including an unborn child, except in the cases of a legal abortion.
The state's new abortion law makes most abortions illegal, allowing exceptions only when the pregnant women's health is endangered, a fetus is gravely deformed or in reported instances of rape or incest.
The governor's office has agreed to ask lawmakers to change the homicide law so it is clear that a woman who has an illegal abortion cannot be charged with criminal homicide.
Lawmakers will be asked to make a number of other changes, including clarifying what male relatives would fall under the abortion law's exception for abortion.
Bud Scruggs, the governor's chief of staff, said there are still discussions under way among advisers he would not name about other possible changes. All of the changes have been described as technical rather than substantive.
The ACLU has challenged the constitutionality of the law. It is not being enforced pending the final ruling on the lawsuit filed in federal court.
Besides the state chapters of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, other groups whose names are scheduled to appear on the ad are the Utah National Abortion Rights Action League, the National Organization For Women, the National Council of Jewish Women, the League of Women Voters of Utah and the Utah Women's Health Center.