Strict Utah abortion ban proposed with ‘trigger clause’

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Most abortions would be banned in Utah under a new proposal at the state Legislature, one that abortion-rights advocates say would create fear and uncertainty even though it wouldn’t be enforced unless the legal landscape changes.

The proposal would make it a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison to perform an abortion except in cases of rape, incest or serious threat to the health of the mother. The bill contains a so-called trigger clause, so the measure wouldn’t go into effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion in the country.

“This would obviously be the complete elective abortion ban,” said Republican sponsor Sen. Dan McCay. The trigger clause means it likely could not be immediately challenged in court.

Several conservative states have been energized by new conservatives on the Supreme Court and passed new restrictions on abortion in hopes of getting the justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade. Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortions last year, and several states passed bans after a heartbeat is detected, around six weeks. None have gone into effect.

Utah passed a ban after 18 weeks last year and lawmakers are considering additional abortion-related proposal this year, including a requirement that doctors perform an ultrasound and that clinics cremate or bury fetal remains.

If Roe were overturned, abortion laws would be up to state governments. McCay’s proposal would add Utah to a list of several states where abortion bans would kick in if the decision is overturned. It’s gotten a warm reception so far from leadership in the GOP-dominated Legislature.

“It puts us in a good spot if there is a change by the Supreme Court,” said Republican Senate President Stuart Adams. “It actually allows us to mirror what the Supreme Court says, which I think is a pretty decent idea.”

Even though it’s not designed to make immediate changes, the measure could raise worrisome questions for women about whether they can get the procedure, said Karrie Galloway, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Utah. The legislative session ends in less than three weeks.

“The anticipation of rushing it through the Legislature with no real discussion, no real consideration of how it impacts families’ lives,” she said. “By throwing it out there, he’s made a lot of people very anxious about what their access options are.”

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.


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