Utah Battle to Fund Abortions on Disabled Babies Continues

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 22, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Utah Battle to Fund Abortions on Disabled Babies Continues

by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
July 22, 2004

Salt Lake City, UT (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life advocates fear that abortion proponents are trying to create a loophole in Utah’s tough new abortion funding law.

The law, which went into effect in May, states that hospitals risk losing state funding if they perform abortions for reasons other than rare instances of rape, incest, or severe damage to a "major bodily function" of the mother.

The abortion lobby and some hospital administrators are now lobbying the Utah Department of Health to enact a rule which would allow a publicly-funded hospital to perform an abortion when the unborn child has a disability.

At a public hearing earlier this week, William Sharp, chairman of the pro-life group Life for Utah, said, "The purpose of that (original) bill was to diminish abortions in the state of Utah. This rule has the purpose and intent of just doing business as usual."

Published reports say the majority of the approximately 30 speakers at the Salt Lake City hearing opposed the rule. They called it a veiled attempt by bureaucrats to get around the legislative process and open up Utah hospitals to abortion on demand. Despite the opposition, the rule could go into effect as early as August 3.

Without the rule change, doctors and hospitals that break the law could lose reimbursement money when treating Medicaid patients and clients of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But pro-life advocates say the law is necessary because tax dollars should not support medical facilities that perform abortions.

After the law went into effect, Utah hospitals began referring pregnant women who wanted abortions to three Salt Lake City abortion facilities.

An estimated 70 Utah women undergo abortions each year because their unborn children have been diagnosed with physical handicaps.

Under the proposed rule, hospitals could perform such abortions if they certified that the abortions were paid for by insurance, charitable donations, or by patients’ personal checks.

The rule change has the backing of Health Department Director Scott Williams, who said, "This rule will allow Utah hospitals and doctors to resume services related to grave fetal defects, if they choose."

However, pro-life advocates note that, in some cases, a doctor’s diagnosis could be wrong and that a healthy baby might be aborted as a result. They also point out that, because of medical breakthroughs, unborn babies who were once considered doomed to die could actually be saved through appropriate treatment, such as in-utero

The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo) supports the rule change. He’s also backing proposed changes in the law which would allow exceptions for "fatal fetal defects" and reword the mother’s health exceptions. Legislators may debate those amendments at a special session or in the 2005 general session.

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