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LegisBlog #5: ACLU Priorities at the Capitol (Part #2)

16 February 2018 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

On February 13, Marina Lowe, the ACLU of Utah’s chief lobbyist at the Utah Capitol, provided a rapid-fire update on five legislative priorities for the ACLU of Utah. Here is part #2 of her report:

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Breastfeeding Accommodations

Last week HB196 (Breastfeeding Protection Act) passed out of the House Business and Labor committee on a narrow 6-5 vote. HB196 would align Utah’s breastfeeding protections with 48 other states by extending a woman’s right to breastfeed or pump to places of public accommodation like stores and restaurants.  This article from the Ogden Standard Examiner does a good job at summarizing the major points of the hearing (Breastfeeding bill draws pushback but clears committee on 6-5 vote).

Since Utah is a state with a lot of moms and babies, Marina suggests that most lawmakers should be in favor of this bill because it allows nursing women and their families to venture outside of the home to shop, eat, and engage in public life. This bill is currently waiting for a full vote on the House floor, expected within the next few days.

If you want to get involved with supporting this bill (and it needs all the help we can provide), please email Stephanie Pitcher at the Utah Women’s Coalition (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Also, if you haven’t read Salt Lake Tribune columnist’s Marina Gomberg’s hilarious reaction to a lawmaker’s comment about “in your face” breastfeeding, you could check it out (Gomberg: Super sorry for being a slut, Rep. Webb, and nursing my child in public)

 

Anti-Choice Bills

Since its first appearance on the opening day of the legislative session, HB 205 (Down Syndrome Nondiscrimination Abortion Act) has been buffeted by controversy.

First, HB205 makes it a crime for doctors in Utah to perform abortions if the provider believes the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion "solely because an unborn child has, or may have, Down syndrome."

Second, legislative attorneys attached a 500-word warning to the bill claiming there is a “high probability” the law would be declared unconstitutional by courts. Marina stated that these “constitutional notes” are a rare occurrence at the Utah legislature and their implications should not be ignored by lawmakers.

Third, a federal court in Indiana struck down a similar Down Syndrome abortion ban in 2017. Other laws in Louisiana and Ohio are being challenged in court. Taxpayers in Indiana already are on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills defending their version of the ban. 

We believe HB205 is a calculated and unconstitutional attack designed to burden women, scare doctors, and chip away at Roe v. Wade. 

On Monday, February 5, this bill passed the Utah House on a 54-17 vote. It has been held in the Senate Rules Committee since February 5. This delay gives us an opportunity.

The ACLU of Utah is urging Utahns to contact the members of the Senate Rules Committee to tell them why you oppose HB 205. 

Go to our “Protect Reproductive Rights” page to learn how and where to raise your voice against HB205.

 

Forcible Entry

For several years the ACLU of Utah has been working with allies like Libertas Institute to reduce the number and degree of no-knock, knock-and-announce, and other types of forcible home entries in Utah. These are situations where law enforcement officials use the element of surprise to demolish a suspect’s door and enter a house in a forcible manner—sometimes using battering rams, assault-style firearms, and tactical gear and clothing.  We believe that forcible entries not only infringe on the rights of private citizens, but that they significantly increase the risk to suspects, their families, and to law enforcement.  For proof, you just need to read the stories about how these raids can go terribly wrong—including a sleeping baby severely injured by a flash grenade in Florida, and Utah police officer killed in a gun battle in Weber County.  

HB83 (Forcible Entry and Warrant Amendments) is our latest legislative attempt to regulate and potentially reduce the number of these dangerous and unpredictable actions.

HB83 places more stringent requirements on the approval process for warrants in no-knock raids, including justifications for why other less confrontational tactics aren’t feasible, why the raid can’t be conducted during daylight hours, and which investigative steps have been taken to determine the correct suspect and house are being targeted. The bill also prevents law enforcement from using no-knock raids solely for the purpose of arresting suspects for possession or use of a controlled substance “with or without the intent to distribute.”

HB83 has been assigned to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, but it has not been scheduled for a hearing yet. The ACLU of Utah looks forward to testifying in favor of this bill when it is considered.

You can learn more about the multi-year process to develop HB83 by watching Episode #2 of our ACLU on the Hill video series, featuring Marina Lowe and Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute.

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