An election year abortion bill is stoking controversy on Utah's Capitol Hill this session. 

Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, wants to ban abortions when the sole reason for the procedure is to prevent a child being born with Down syndrome. Legislative lawyers have warned that HB205 would likely be found unconstitutional, and may lead to a lawsuit.

The House passed the bill last week on a 54-17 vote. It is currently waiting to be assigned to a Senate committee.

Our "Political Insiders" are divided along party lines on whether lawmakers should proceed with the bill despite those warnings.

  • The Republicans who responded to our survey are divided evenly, with 50% saying the legislature should move forward with the bill, while 50% say they shouldn't.

  • Democrats and our readers are opposed, with 95% of Democrats and 91% of our readers saying legislators should not move forward with the bill.

 

Selected anonymous comments:

It wouldn't be the first time that our far-Right lawmakers have decided to pursue something that violates the Constitution they claim to revere. When will they realize that Utahns are tired of all the 'message bills' and want them to work on the state's problems? If they spent half the time on education funding, healthcare, and clean air that they do on showing how 'patriotic' they are, we would all be better off.

While many people may have had wonderful experiences raising a down syndrome child, it does not come without untold sacrifice, heartache and a lifetime commitment. The state should not assume to force that decision on a person or family who do not make that choice of their own free will and who simply may not be up to the task. The decision to have and raise a child is profoundly personal and not one that the state should make for any of its citizens.

Maybe this could work itself, in time, to the Supreme Court which may then have more pro-life members.

They'll do it anyway. Republicans won't let something like the Constitution (sans the 2nd Amendment) stand in the way of limiting personal rights and freedoms on people who are different from them (ex - women, minorities, thinkers, non-mouth breathers, etc.).

Lawmakers should stay out of a woman's right to choose abortion. It is none of their (lawmakers) business. Roe v Wade.

Abortion is terrible. With the number of contraceptives available you almost have to go out of your way to get knocked up. Aborting a child because of down syndrome is just evil.

The Utah Legislature is not part of our family's medical team.

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s a long way to SCOTUS! The makeup of the court could change dramatically by then.

Aborting a child because it has down syndrome is frankly murder. How would the pro-choice lobby react if people choose to have an abortion because the child would be born with Autism? Homosexual? Blind? Religious fanatic? When do we say it isn't okay?

I agree that it may amount to no more than a futile attempt to hang on to Utah's traditional value set. However, I think it is within the scope of our responsibility to express the sentiment of our constituents and say "Hey, we think this is morally wrong."

All abortion should be illegal.

This bill shamefully exploits children and one disability to make a political statement.

But from experience, they don’t care what we think and like to play with our tax money. But hey it plays well back home.

Don't waste any taxpayer money on unconstitutional bills. Spend it on education.

I am tired of legislators passing unconstitutional bills that soak the taxpayers with legal expenses. It also seems a bit arbitrary and oppressive to legislate that women have to raise a child with Down syndrome even though the woman may not be able to handle the situation emotionally and financially.

Before Roe v. Wade, every State had abortion restrictions that were suddenly unconstitutional. A law is only constitutional until the Court says it isn't, but by the same token, it is only unconstitutional until the Court says it is constitutional. It isn't much in the way of the rule of law, but it's what we have. Possibly the Court will allow the State of Utah to protect some of those most in need of protection.

Nothing like wasting taxpayer money on unconstitutional legislation. That's not conservative, that's stupid.

It is a cynical, but predictable bill being run by Republicans in an election year to make sure their Republican constituents know they are right in line with the hardliners.

With legislation pending to tighten up ethical conduct and other business of a more urgent nature, the lawmakers in question most likely are wanting to create conflict and diversion. It's a convenient ploy while they continue to pillage, plunder, and loot the rule of law in this state.

If families don’t have the means or resources, how are they to provide for the child that will most likely need care and supervision their entire life?

It's an expensive statement. But our Legislature will do it.

This is another message bill. Stop trying to legislate against a women’s right to make decisions for her own body!! And stop wasting hard-earned taxpayer money on bills that are unconstitutional.

I get that many oppose abortion, including myself. But this posturing is not helpful nor legal. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and Utah will not change that. Leave it alone.

Threats of a lawsuit should never be a considered a valid reason for not doing what is right! 

No court case is more important than human life. All lives should be protected at every stage at any cost.

The threat of a lawsuit should not have a bearing on the question of right or wrong. A child should be able to fulfill the measure of his/her existence. Much of that existence will involve a heavy dependence on parents. And this is where it gets even tougher; what happens to that child when parents are no longer around to provide that level of care?

Not only is it a waste of money, since it will have to be fought in court, ANY bill that would ban abortion due to Downs Syndrome should also include resources for parents who have a Downs Syndrome child. It is easy to tell others what sacrifice they have to make if it costs you nothing but a feeling of moral superiority for having accomplished something. Unless you are willing to back up your moral stand with a willingness to pay the additional taxes necessary to provided the needed resources for the child once he/she is born, your moral stance is meaningless.

Passing a bill that could potentially cost millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars just to send a message is irresponsible, at best. At the very least, they should have an open debate on the legal costs this would entail as if it was part of the bill's fiscal note.

Stop grandstanding and get to work on real bills that can pass constitutional muster!

I am pro-life, and we really can't go against the present law at this time. As a Boy Scout leader in a special needs troop for 19 years, I feel that although children with certain disabilities can be a challenge, the benefits to a family and neighborhood far outweigh the need to deny these children the opportunity for a life in a loving family and achieving their potential, whatever that may be. Potential inconvenience is no reason to deny a special-needs child life. They give so very much in return.

There will be a lawsuit since this bill is unconstitutional. Taxpayers will pay pricey defense lawyers, and Utah will lose the lawsuit. Instead, let's spend the money to provide health care to women and children.

Legislating morality is never a good strategy.

Use the money that would be wasted in the lawsuit providing support to people with Down syndrome and their families.

Leave it to our part-time legislators to override the recommendation of full-time attorneys and spend even more money on losing lawsuits for the state.

It is fiscally irresponsible to proceed with this bill. Not when we are struggling with how to keep and retain teachers. Not when we aren't sure how to fund 12-month continuous Medicaid insurance for children (many of whom are disabled).

Why would we waste taxpayer dollars to uphold something that is illegal to begin with? Why Down syndrome specifically, and not other disabilities? This bill is just another way to restrict women’s healthcare, and furthermore a lame attempt to get a Supreme Court case to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s not going to happen. I want legislators to stop wasting my tax dollars on things I don’t support. This is an election year, and I know who I am not voting for based off of this piece of legislation.

This is government overreach. Please do not pass an unconstitutional bill that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars just to be struck down in court.

I strongly oppose elective abortion and choosing to kill your child for their characteristics. I still don't think "buying a lawsuit" via this bill is the way to go. We don't have the money. Pursue the change through other venues rather than election-year grandstanding.

This is an anti-abortion bill that is trying to masquerade as a disability rights bill. The parading of Down syndrome folks for emotional grandstanding has been absolutely disgusting. If lawmakers really cared about folks with disabilities as they reportedly say, they would work to decrease the waiting list for services for people with disabilities and have employment initiatives for people with disabilities that actually work.

This is a huge waste of resources that would be better used helping already disabled people in Utah. If they are going to pretend to care so much about life they better be willing to provide for that life once it’s out of the womb.

I believe this bill is unconstitutional. Not only does it discriminate against women who may not have the resources or ability to raise a child with down syndrome, but it also discriminates against other genetic conditions diagnosed in utero by not giving those conditions the same protections. As a special educator, I work with children born with Down Syndrome and many other conditions daily. These children are a joy! However, many are born to parents who do not have the time, resources, or ability to care for them. It is so awful to see these children suffer. I believe this is just a scam by Rep. Lisonbee to make terminating a pregnancy look ugly as well as take away a women's constitutional right to be in charge of her own body.

The fiscal note for a bill like this should include the potential litigation costs to the state to defend an unconstitutional law... which would quickly hit six-figures. The ACLU in Indiana has collected millions of dollars by challenging similar laws in recent years.

I think any lawmaker who votes for a blatantly illegal bill, such as this one, should be forced to personally pay the legal expenses when the state gets sued over the bill.

I have autism and have met people with Down's syndrome. Just because an outsider views those with disabilities as sufferers and degenerates doesn't mean disabled people never feel joy or are self-aware. We need to allow neurodiversity. However, parents of disabled kids face more medical bills, so the state needs to provide financial and other relief for these parents.

This bill is abhorrent. I'm a woman pregnant with twins (which have a higher chance of birth defects) going into my first anatomy ultrasound next week. If there are problems, it will be devastating enough. I can't fathom the state is telling us what to do on top of all that. Who is the state to decide what's best for my family and my children?

While the intent is from a good place, the law will never be ruled constitutional. It will be yet another time the Utah Legislature wastes our tax dollars on a message bill. Just make this a resolution or some other non-binding statement, don't try to make it a law.

I work as a genetic counselor and know many people who I have worked with who had to make some of the most difficult decisions of their life in choosing how to respond to the news that their baby was affected with a genetic condition. A woman and a family have the right to respond to that however they need, without government interference. It’s truly sad this bill could become a reality in our state. I see this bill as a limitation to a family’s desire to get genetic counseling. We practice genetic counseling without bias so that our patients can learn as much information as they would like to without having to worry about judgment from us as professionals. If this bill passes, fewer women and families will want to learn information that could help understand the needs of their babies before birth. If discrimination is feared and options are limited, I believe many families will choose not to know. Down syndrome screening is most often completed as one part of a bigger prenatal test that screens for many genetic conditions, some more fatal and complicated than others. This is truly concerning to me as a healthcare provider because knowledge is always power in our eyes. The more we know about that baby before delivery, the better prepared we can be to give baby and mom the care they need. Often, babies with Down syndrome or other genetic conditions have major health complications, and sadly, abortion can be the safest option.

As a parent of a Down syndrome child, this is a big concern. But I don’t think this is the right way to deal with it. Why limit it to Down Syndrome? I am deeply concerned with so many countries that have eradicated Down syndrome through abortion. But, I don’t think we are to that point in this state yet.

The entire premise behind the bill is flawed; there is no evidence that this is even an issue in Utah. I would rather they spend the time and money on this bill to better support people with downs syndrome. Otherwise, they are just lining the pockets of lawyers.

This bill is pure manipulation to keep women from accessing abortion. It won’t stand up in federal court, and the cost of trying to have this tried will be a waste of taxpayer money.