by Steven Ertelt
January 18, 2008
Salt Lake City (LifeNews.com) — A new poll finds Utah residents support a bill in the state legislature that would minimize the number of abortions done on teenagers under the judicial bypass provision in the state’s parental consent law. The provision, as standard feature in such legislation, allows teens to get around telling their parents about a potential abortion.
Rep. Stephen Sandstrom has put forward a proposal that would let teenagers get around the consent statute only if the girl’s parents are allowed to be notified about the possible abortion and allowed to weigh in on the desire for a bypass beforehand.
A new Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll shows the bill has the support of most state residents.
The media outlets found nearly 70 percent of Utahans support the bill and making sure teenagers don’t get abortions without their parents’ consent. Just 26 percent of those surveyed opposed tightening the law.
The newspaper and television station polled 413 Utah residents from January 8-10 and the survey has a margin of error of five percent.
Bypass provisions are meant to be rarely used and to provide protection for teenagers who are subjected to abusive home situations or have been victims of incest.
However, other states with similar laws have found abortion businesses regularly get around them by providing free legal representation and shopping for sympathetic judges.
"I don’t think any of us would like to be held to a decision we made as young teens," Sandstrom told the newspaper. "This is one of the most life-altering decisions anyone could face, and it’s just too important not to have the parents or guardian involved."
Sandstrom indicated he also wants to limit the number of bypass cases by allowing them only when a teenager is a victim of sexual abuse or if her parents have been convicted of child abuse previously.
Teenagers currently only have to tell a court that they feel they are likely to be abused if their parents find out about the pregnancy and the abortion.
However, Missy Larsen, the vice president for public policy at Utah Planned Parenthood, says her group opposes the bill.
She says the bill is unnecessary because the bypass law is rarely used — saying only eight teens used it to get abortions in Utah in 2006.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Sandstrom is scheduled to meet with Rick Schwermer, assistant state court administrator, to see if a slight change in the administrative rules would accomplish the same thing as his bill.
"The bill is something that will hold up in court. I don’t think it will be challenged," he said. "But I would say there’s a pretty good chance right now that we can come up with some compromise with the courts."
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman signed the parental consent bill into law in 2006. The new law replaces an older one that required only notifying parents of a teen’s desire to have an abortion.
According to the state health department, there were 3,338 abortions statewide in 2003.
The Utah Department of Health estimates that 195 girls had abortions in Utah then, according to the latest statistics available. Twenty-four of the girls were younger than 15 and 171 were 15 to 17.
A February 2006 poll conducted by Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV found 54 percent of Utah citizens said they favor the parental consent requirement while just 43 percent oppose the idea.