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Law & the Courts

Utah Legislature Passes Abortion Restrictions, Fetal Remains Bill

A woman receives an ultrasound (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

The Utah legislature on Thursday passed two abortion bills, one a measure that would ban most abortions if Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide, is ever overturned.

The stringent bill, which would impose felony charges on a doctor who performs an abortion or a woman who performs one on herself — except in cases of rape or when the life of the mother is threatened — comes as many states pass laws meant to spark court challenges they hope will end with the Supreme Court reconsidering legalized abortion.

Utah lawmakers also passed a bill that would require abortion clinics and other medical centers to cremate or bury fetal remains, which abortion advocates say harms abortion rights but opponents say is a more respectful way to dispose of the remains.

A third bill, which would have required a mother seeking an abortion to be shown an ultrasound before she could undergo the procedure, passed the Senate even after a bipartisan group of six female Utah senators protested by walking out of the chamber. The bill later stalled in the House, however.

Republican Governor Gary Herbert, who has opposed abortion in the past, declined to say whether he would sign or veto any of the bills, but did say the women’s gesture was a “loud message.”

“I think it was a loud message and one I think we, as men, ought to take hard look at. Are we listening? Are we getting all the information we need to?”

Republican Senator Curtis Bramble, who sponsored the ultrasound bill, argued that the woman seeking an abortion could look away from the ultrasound images if she wished.

“If you are going to take the life of a child, if you are willing to terminate that life through an abortion, it seems appropriate that you get the best information about the development, the stage of development, heartbeat — we are talking about a human being,” Bramble said.

Last year, Utah passed a ban on abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy, which has been ensnared in court challenges since then along with similar abortion bans in other states.

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