Preston Cathcart, Deseret News
Sen. Brian Zehnder, R-Holladay, sponsored HB12 on the Senate floor. The Senate gave the first nod to the bill, which directs the Department of Health to apply for a Medicaid waiver to provide IUDs for low-income families.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate gave its first nod to bill that will use Medicaid funds to give family planning services including long-acting, reversible birth control like intrauterine devices to women under the poverty level.

Sen. Brian Zehnder, R-Holladay, sponsored the bill on the Senate floor.

"Utah is only one of seven states that doesn't have this waiver," Zehnder told the Senate, adding that the fiscal note on the bill anticipates a 3-1 return on investment.

Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, spoke in favor of the bill, saying even though it is always controversial to run a bill mentioning families and contraceptives, "this is a bill that makes sense on so many levels."

The bill closes a gap for women who do not qualify for Medicaid but would as soon as they have a child, he said.

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Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, noted that "the majority of abortions that occur in the state are for unwanted pregnancies, and this is going to allow a few women to avoid that unwanted pregnancy by taking away the financial stumbling block ... and the savings to the state are going to be immediate."

Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, rose in favor of the bill, saying "I just don't know why we didn't do this before. I wholly support this bill."

The bill was approved, 24-3. The Senate will need to vote on it one more time before it passes and goes to the governor for his signature.

— Preston Cathcart