Utah Legislature passes Down syndrome abortion ban with ‘trigger clause’

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A proposed ban on abortions sought only because a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome passed the Utah Legislature on Thursday, sending the measure to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.

The Down Syndrome Nondiscrimination Abortion Act, designated as HB 166 and sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, easily cleared a final vote in the state Senate by a vote of 20-6, with three senators absent or not voting, including Southern Utah Sen. Don Ipson. Otherwise, all Southern Utah senators voted in favor of the bill.

This reflected the bill’s passage in the Utah House of Representatives on Feb. 15, where it passed by a vote of 54-16, with all Southern Utah representatives voting in favor, except for Rep. Walt Brooks, who was one of six representatives absent or not voting.

HB 166 contains a so-called “trigger clause,” and it would only go into effect if a similar law is upheld in court elsewhere. The provision was added to address criticism that it is likely unconstitutional and could embroil the state in an expensive lawsuit.

Herbert said the clause removes some risk of a legal fight, but he’s not yet sure if the proposal is constitutional. He said it was “somewhat of a message bill” aimed at telling people that aborting a fetus due to a Down syndrome diagnosis is “probably not a good reason.”

North Dakota has a law prohibiting abortion for genetic anomaly, including Down syndrome. Similar laws in Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio have been blocked by courts. Arkansas and Kentucky are considering measures this year.

Planned Parenthood of Utah President and CEO Karrie Galloway said she’s disappointed the Utah measure passed but that she does not expect it to go into effect because she believes other similar laws won’t succeed in court challenges.

This is Lisonbee’s second attempt to pass the bill, which stalled in the House last year.

Herbert declined to say whether he would sign the legislation but added that he’s generally a “pro-life guy.”

The proposal is one of two abortion bills under consideration in Utah. Another to ban abortion after 18 weeks of gestation has passed the Utah House of Representatives.

Conservative states around the country are considering strong abortion restrictions this year amid optimism about the reconfiguring of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.

They have included so-called trigger bans on abortion if Roe v. Wade falls and bills banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.

Read more: See all St. George News reports and opinions on Utah Legislature 2019 issues

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Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, The Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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