The Utah Legislature has not had a big fight over abortion for a few years – one may be on the way now.
Thursday, Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, introduced HB442, which would make illegal in Utah any abortion procedure that “dismembered” the fetus in the process of removing it.
“Why would we rip apart the little body before it even has a chance at life?,” said Oda. “That is disgusting to me.”
Oda’s bill carries a very long “constitutional note” placed on it by the Legislature’s attorneys, showing should the bill become law it may successfully be challenged in federal courts.
The note, citing previous court decisions, says “there is a high probability that the court would find that the prohibition of those abortion procedures creates an undue burden on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy before viability during the first trimester.”
Oda said there are some surgical procedures that could be allowed under his bill.
And he makes exceptions for “emergency” situations to save the woman.
He provides civil action against the doctor if dismemberment of the fetus takes place.
However, most likely, in typical situations, only medical abortions – induced by drugs – could be allowed in Utah, for doctors would fear severe penalties if they even try a surgical procedure to end a pregnancy.
Here is a website that explains the various abortion procedures.
Oda would make it a 3rd-degree felony for a doctor or other practitioner to conduct any procedure, including the vacuuming out of the fetus (the most common procedure) that dismembered, or tore apart, the fetus as part of the removal.
In his weekly press availability, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert said he had not seen Oda’s bill.
“I’m very pro-life, as all know,” said Herbert. But he added he is also “pro-law,” and believes in abiding by the law, whether ruled so by courts or by legislation.
“I have a problem with Roe v. Wade. But it is the law of the land,” Herbert said, adding he would take a hard look at Oda’s bill should it pass and come to his desk for signature or veto.
Oda said he has heard that there are some other states that are looking at similar anti-abortion laws currently, but that to his knowledge no states have adopted a law like he is proposing.
There is another bill in the Legislature this year that would require some kind of pain-deadening medicine be administered to the fetus before an abortion could take place.
But that bill wouldn’t outlaw any procedure.
Oda’s is further reaching.
Utah’s abortion rate has been dropping for years, and at the last report – 2014 – is the lowest ever.
State Health Department figures show that for every 1,000 women of childbearing ages, 15-44 years old, there are 4.3 abortions in a year.
The year before it was 4.6 per 1,000.
In 2011 – the latest figures found by UtahPolicy – there were 51,223 live births in the state, with 3,290 abortions.
Abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy was made legal in America by the U.S. Supreme Court’s famous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.
Over the years, the high court has placed various restrictions on legal abortions but has upheld the fundamental rights of women to end a pregnancy in the first three months.
Utah led an effort in the early 1990s to have the high court overturn Roe v. Wade, but the Supreme Court refused to outlaw abortions.
In several legislative re-election years during the 1990s there seemed always to be an abortion bill introduced by the GOP majority – with Democrats claiming it was just an attempt to make them vote “no” and harm Democratic legislative election efforts.
But for some time, such so-called “message bills” have been few in the Utah Legislature. 2016 is an election year for Utah’s lawmakers.
Oda sees it differently – with a bigger issue at stake.
“How can we be indifferent to this terrible procedure” of fetus dismemberment? Asked Oda.
There are current laws against the desecration of a dead human body, he noted.
“We are asking that we don’t desecrate a living little body” of a fetus, he added.