Utah House Passes Bill for Doctors to Refuse to Do Abortions

State   Steven Ertelt   Mar 7, 2011   |   4:44PM    Salt Lake City, UT

A bill the Utah state House passed today would allow doctors who are morally opposed to abortions to refuse to participate in them — including in cases of rape or incest.

Rep. Carl Wimmer sponsored the measure, HB 353 to ensure physicians are immune from a civil lawsuit for refusing to do an abortion and to expand the current protections that are on the books in the state. The state House agreed with his legislation with a 54-13 party-line vote and now the bill heads to the state Senate for consideration.

“This law expands that protection, because right now there is absolutely no explicit wording in the law that prohibits a termination from his job or her job if they refuse to perform an abortion” Wimmer said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Wimmer said he didn’t know of any specific cases of doctors facing problems but he said he had heard enough anecdotal evidence to make it worth approving a bill and that the doctors involved wanted a fix for the problems they faced.

“I can’t give you any [examples],” he said. “What I can give you is just anecdotal evidence or conversations I had with two physicians at the most recent state Republican convention.”

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, was one of the legislators opposing the bill, according to the Tribune and said she worried the bill would make it more difficult for women to get abortions.

The bill comes after the Obama administration weakened some of the federal rules that apply to doctors and their ability to not be involved in abortions or the dispensing of drugs that could cause abortions in some instances.