SALT LAKE CITY – The House approved three anti-abortion bills sponsored by Rep. Carl Wimmer on Monday, including one requiring additional inspections of abortion clinics.
"This is one of the things we're able to do," the Herriman Republican said of his HB171. "This is one of the areas where we're able to push back and say the majority of our citizens are pro-life."
The bill would require semi-annual inspections by the state Department of Health of the state's three abortion clinics in Salt Lake City as well as the offices of doctors who perform elective abortions.
Wimmer said there have been reports of "horrific" conditions in clinics outside the state. He said it's unknown whether there are similar problems in Utah clinics. Like other health-care facilities, the clinics are inspected only every two years.
Minority Caucus Manager Christine Watkins, D-Price, questioned whether the bill was an attempt to protect the health of women or an attack on the federal government.
"I have never hidden my agenda, the fact that I'm pro-life," Wimmer said.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said the bill should be opposed by anyone who believes in limited government.
"It's not about abortion," Moss said. "It's about regulating something you don’t happen to like."
The bill passed the House 47-25 and now goes to the Senate.
Another of Wimmer's anti-abortion bills, HB353, would expand freedom of conscience provisions allowing doctors to refuse to perform abortions, making it clear they can't be fired and extending the protection to hospitals.
Wimmer could not give any examples of instances where doctors have been forced to go against their beliefs. He said he was approached by a pair of doctors concerned about what they saw as a loophole in the current law.
"This law will make absolutely certain that never happens," Wimmer said, while protecting the public by permitting exceptions in the case of emergencies.
He told lawmakers they were making a policy decision about whether a doctor should "be forced to perform an abortion as part of his duties if it violates his moral or ethical believes."
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, spoke against the bill. "This bill really isn't needed," she said, calling the effort to augment existing protections "very disconcerting."
HB353 passed 54-13, with only Democrats opposed, and now goes to the Senate.
Wimmer's other anti-abortion bill, HB354, also passed and is headed to the Senate. It allows health insurance companies to opt out of covering elective abortions under the new federal health care plan.