Utah Tax-Funded Hospitals Can Resume Abortions on Disabled Babies

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 11, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Utah Tax-Funded Hospitals Can Resume Abortions on Disabled Babies

by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
June 11, 2004

Salt Lake CIty, UT (LifeNews.com) — Hospitals in Utah that receive taxpayer money can resume performing abortions on handicapped children, under a rule issued by the Utah Department of Health.

Hospitals had ceased doing such abortions after a new state abortion law went into effect May 3. Under the law, hospitals could lose their public funding if they performed abortions for reasons other than rape, incest, or the threat of damage to a major bodily function of the mother.

But, under the rule adopted by the state health department, a publicly-funded hospital can abort a baby with a disability if hospital officials can prove that insurance, donations, or a patient’s personal check paid for the abortion.

Hospital officials are defending the rule, even though it could be perceived as a loophole which could lead to widespread abortions of children with special needs.

"If we had a woman who came to one of our physicians with a ‘grave fetal deformity,’ we would be able to provide the care she needs," Kim Wirthlin, a vice president for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Wirthlin added, "This clarification allows us to provide the medical care that is appropriate and compassionate in situations of grave fetal deformity."

Utah Assistant Attorney General Doug Springmeyer also supports the health department ruling.

"We’ve just been looking for a realistic way for hospitals to determine that they’re not cross-subsidizing termination of grave fetal defects with other procedures," Springmeyer told the Tribune.

The Utah legislature adopted the abortion funding law in order to prevent both direct and indirect taxpayer support of abortion.

But a publicity blitz, led by hospitals, has prompted public officials to press for a relaxation of enforcement of the law.

Also, news organizations have devoted a great deal of attention to a woman from Roy, Utah, who was upset that she could not have an abortion at a hospital because of the abortion funding law.

Suzie Combe, who was pregnant with a child that doctors said would not survive after birth, elected to go ahead with the abortion by having it done at an abortion business.

Her husband, Glen, has been quoted as saying that he’s not satisfied with the new health department rule.

"I think it is a Band-Aid fix," Glen Combe told the Deseret Morning News. "What really needs to happen is that the bill needs to be amended to fix the problem for people without insurance."

While mainstream news accounts say the new rule is directed toward "doomed babies," pro-life activists point out that a handicap does not necessarily mean an unborn child is doomed to die.

The rule change also seems to ignore the fact that medical research shows that abortions can be far more dangerous to a mother than childbirth, for they represent the artificial interruption of a pregnancy. Abortion has been linked to a host of medical problems, including sterility, breast cancer, and even death.

The rule has already taken effect, but a 30-day public comment period begins July 1. The rule is scheduled to be officially implemented in August.

The sponsor of the original abortion funding bill is now planning to attempt to amend the law to cover abortions for women without health insurance. The lawmaker, Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo), also wants to define "fatal fetal deformities" and tinker with the law’s references to the mother’s health.

Bramble is planning to work on the amendments with Steven Clark, medical director of LDS Hospital’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Program.

At the time the original legislation was passed, Bramble said, "Abortions are reprehensible and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for a procedurethey oppose."

Related web sites:
Utah Department of Health – https://health.utah.gov
Utah Legislature – https://www.le.state.ut.us