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Utah lawmakers planning more abortion bills now that 'trigger law' is in effect

Posted at 5:22 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 21:04:07-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's "trigger law" banning elective abortions in the state has gone into effect.

FOX 13 News got word late Friday the law would go into effect, days earlier than expected. Lawyers for the Utah State Legislature completed their review of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion striking down Roe v. Wade. They were required to see if there were conflicts with state law.

"Members of the Legislative Management Committee have been notified and the bill is now in effect. Utah code is updated to reflect the changes," the Senate Majority Caucus said in a statement confirming it.

Even after Utah's trigger law goes into effect and bans elective abortion in the state, legislators are drafting more bills.

House Democrats marched into the Utah State Capitol hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade was announced, opening bill files to try to modify Utah's ban. Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, told FOX 13 News she would be running legislation to remove the criminal penalty attached to the law, making it a second-degree felony for a health care provider to perform what will soon be an "illegal abortion."

"I find it problematic you’re going to criminalize health care providers when they’re just thinking about the safety of their patients," she said.

In 2020, the Utah State Legislature banned abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. However, Sen. Dan McCay's legislation preserved exceptions for victims of rape or incest; to protect the health and safety of the mother; and if a fetus was not viable.

"We’re over 3,000 abortions and I’m hopeful we will be in a position soon to cut that number significantly," he told FOX 13 News, reacting to the ruling.

Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, told FOX 13 News she was drafting legislation to modify the rape reporting requirement of the trigger law for someone to qualify for an abortion.

"The reporting requirement wouldn’t only be to police. You could report to a rape crisis center, a health care provider, but you would have to say 'I was raped,' but you wouldn’t necessarily file a police report and open a case," she said.

It remains to be seen how far those bills would get in the Republican supermajority. At a news conference on Friday, Senate President J. Stuart Adams said he would like to see Utah's trigger law go into effect and evaluate it before making changes.

Unless they meet the criteria spelled out under Utah, people who seek an abortion will have to go out-of-state. While some Republican lawmakers have said they oppose abortion funds to facilitate that, Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said she would not support any legislation to block anyone from doing so.

Rep. Lisonbee, who co-sponsored the trigger law, said that miscarriages are not defined as an abortion under it. She announced she would introduce a bill to shift funding in the state from abortion services to pregnancy resource centers.

Anti-abortion activists told FOX 13 News on Friday they would next like to see lawmakers potentially make moves to restrict access to abortion pills in the state.

Governor Spencer Cox said he was supportive of the ruling. However, the governor has also called on the Utah State Legislature to devote more resources toward preventing unwanted pregnancies and helping those who now have to carry a pregnancy to term.

"Giving every resource possible to women and babies will again be impacted by this decision," he said at a news conference last month. "So I think it’s important as a state and especially as Republicans we start focusing on those issues."

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told FOX 13 News that he had spoken with the governor on Friday and intended to do so.

"We’ve already made a commitment to do everything from expanding access to birth control, for those that are on Medicaid, and providing services like these including providing services for child care," he said.