SALT LAKE CITY — UTAH'S restrictive abortion bill, which would virtually eliminate elective abortions, steamrolled through the state Senate Wednesday on a 23 to 5 vote. Gov. Norman Bangerter (R) said he is eagerly waiting to sign the bill, which was expected to hit the House floor today. Sen. Karen Shepherd urged her colleagues not to pass the bill. She argued that it would cost the state millions in social services and probably cost lives in terms of illegal abortion.
Wednesday's final vote came after some legislative fine-tuning. One last-minute amendment removed criminal sanctions against women who obtain an illegal abortion, but kept the criminal sanctions on doctors who perform the operation.
Michelle Parrish-Pixler, director of the Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, threatened to sue to stop the bill from going into law. Utah's bill closely resembles legislation enacted in Pennsylvania and Guam, which are already under challenge in the US Supreme Court, she notes.
If passed, the bill would outlaw abortion unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy were the result of a rape or incest and was reported to the police within five days, or if the fetus suffers from physical deformities that would keep it from surviving birth.
This legislation ``is clearly unconstitutional,'' says Kate Michelman, executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League. ``It would prevent almost all Utah women from exercising their fundamental constitutional right to choose and severely endanger their health and well-being.''
Current state law allows unquestioned abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy if performed by a physician.
Utah's Legislature is 90 percent Mormon. The church has been outspoken against abortion.