The Utah Senate approved a pro-life bill Monday that would protect unborn babies by banning almost all abortions in the state.
Deseret News reports the legislation passed overwhelmingly in a 22-6 vote, with the only objections coming from Democrats.
Utah Senate Bill 174, sponsored by state Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, would prohibit abortions with limited exceptions for rape, incest, risks to the mother’s life and fatal fetal deformities. It also attempts to avoid a costly legal challenge by taking effect only after the courts allow states to restrict abortions again. Currently, states are prohibited from protecting unborn babies from abortion prior to viability under Roe v. Wade.
“I think it’s the government’s role to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. That is one of our primary duties, and the unborn cannot speak and as a result it is our obligation to protect them,” McCay told reporters. “It’s regrettable that the government has to protect the unborn from a parent.”
On the Senate floor, he encouraged mothers to choose life and not give up hope.
“I am convinced, even when we feel like there is no other way to do something, there are always other options, and ask that until this bill takes effect, that they exercise that choice to exercise life,” he said.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports a few Democrats argued against the bill prior to the vote, claiming the government should not interfere on the abortion issue.
State Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, claimed the bill would take away “the rights of women.
“We are saying that they are not responsible for their bodies,” she said.
News outlets predicted the Utah House also will approve the bill, but it is not clear if Gov. Gary Herbert will sign it.
According to the Tribune, Herbert, a Republican, expressed skepticism about the bill last week during his monthly press conference.
“We could wait until Roe v. Wade is, in fact, overturned, if, in fact, it ever is,” he said. “It may be kind of a feel-good message bill. If I sign it, nothing happens. If I don’t sign it, nothing happens. So I’m a little concerned about it.”
The U.S. Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion, and instead allowed abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.
There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider overturning Roe, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain. A Louisiana abortion case before the high court in March is an important test case that will help determine where the justices stand on the matter.
Meanwhile, Utah lawmakers are considering several other pro-life bills that would help save babies and inform pregnant mothers.
State Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, recently introduced a bill to require Utah abortion facilities to give mothers the opportunity to see their unborn babies on an ultrasound and hear their baby’s heartbeat.
Another bill moving through the legislature would require medical and abortion facilities to bury or cremate the remains of aborted and miscarried babies and provide mothers with options for their babies’ final disposition.