Utah governor signs bills involving abortions, polygamy

FILE - Kody Brown, left, from "Sister Wives," a popular TV reality series about a polygamous family, marches during a protest at the state Capitol, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 10, 2017 | Photo by Rick Bowmer via the Associated Press, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The governor of Utah has signed bills that place new rules on abortion providers in the state and remove the threat of jail time for polygamists.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert approved bills over the weekend that make the penalty for multiple marriages similar to a traffic ticket, rather than a felony. The measure passed the conservative Legislature overwhelmingly after supporters argued it would allow people to report abuses such as underage marriage without fear of being prosecuted themselves.

Some former members of polygamous groups argued that changing the law could empower abusers.

Herbert also signed new requirements for abortion clinics and other medical facilities to cremate or bury fetal remains after an abortion or miscarriage, rather than dispose of them with medical waste. Backers of that measure argued that it would be more dignified.

Opponents said it’s aimed at chipping away at abortion rights. Several states have considered similar measures since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a similar law to stand in Indiana last year.

A second abortion measure approved by Herbert would make the procedure illegal in Utah if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the decades-old ruling that legalized it nationwide. The Utah measure would make it a felony to perform the procedure, except in cases involving rape, incest and serious threat to the life of a mother. The felony count could apply to a woman who ended her own pregnancy.

Conservative lawmakers argued the bill would prepare the state for a possible change amid hopes by abortion opponents around the country that the Supreme Court will reconsider the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling with new conservative justices.

Opponents called it an extreme bill that would end up hurting women if it goes into effect.

Other bills Herbert included:

— A measure overhauling the state’s pretrial release system to move away from cash bail in many cases.

—The creation of a task force to study the higher rates of violence that Native American women experience.

— A tighter ban on personalized license plates that have disparaging messages after a plate spelling out “deport them” sparked debate on social media.

— A measure revising a voter-approved law aimed at curbing gerrymandering, the process of manipulating voting districts unfairly to gain an advantage.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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