Utah Legislature Passes Bill Banning Abortions, Protecting Unborn Babies Under Law

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 13, 2020   |   10:41AM   |   Salt Lake City, UT

A Utah bill to protect unborn babies from abortion is on its way to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk this week.

State House lawmakers approved the abortion ban in a 51-21 vote Thursday, KSL News reports. The state Senate passed the bill earlier this month.

Sponsored by state Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, Senate Bill 174 would prohibit abortions with limited exceptions for rape, incest, risks to the mother’s life and fatal fetal deformities. Abortionists who violate the law could be charged with a felony.

The abortion ban would go into 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.

State Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said every human life deserves to be protected, KUER News Utah reports. She was the lead sponsor of the bill in the House.

“This bill is meant to discourage the taking of human life. Human life, according to the state of Utah, is important and should be protected,” Lisonbee said. “There are many of our colleagues who assert that they are pro-choice, but there are many choices available to a woman. One of the choices that’s available is adoption.”

Some Democrats opposed the law, claiming it would endanger women’s lives.

“I support efforts to reduce the number of abortions,” said Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, according to the local news. “But passing this extreme bill with black and white language will not result in a reduction in the number of abortions. It will reduce the number of [safe] abortions … To be clear, women will die.”

Though this is a common pro-abortion talking point, there is little evidence to support it. Even a prominent pro-abortion researcher recently said most women choose to carry their unborn babies to term when abortions are illegal, rather than seek out back alley or self-induced abortions. Abortion bans save the lives of both unborn babies and mothers.

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It is not clear if Herbert, a Republican, will sign the bill.

According to the Tribune, the governor expressed skepticism about the bill during his monthly press conference in February.

“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.

Abortions will not immediately become illegal when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe. Instead, the power to ban abortions or keep them legal will return to the states.

Some states already have legislation in place to ban abortions when that happens. Ohio and Idaho also are considering similar legislation this spring. In 2019, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri also passed laws to ban abortions once Roe v. Wade is overturned.

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. The high court heard a Louisiana abortion case earlier this month. A ruling is expected in June.

Action: Contact Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to support the bill.