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Week Six: Cue the Attacks on Reproductive Freedom

27 February 2016 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

With just two weeks left in the 2016 Legislative Session, the attacks on reproductive freedom are finally popping up all over Capitol Hill - just as predictable as the spring blooms popping up outside!7298855922 2826acc961 o

We've got a couple of real winners this year - slightly different, but both blantant attempts to destroy women's access to safe, legal abortion in Utah. Make no mistake about it, the ACLU of Utah is strongly opposed to both of these bills, and will work dilligently to defeat them (if not in the legislature, than certainly in the courts). Let's look at them separately:

SB234, misleadingly called "PROTECTING UNBORN CHILDREN AMENDMENTS," is sponsored by Senator Curt Bramble of Provo. This one, we expected. The Salt Lake Tribune revealed a while back that Sen. Bramble planned to introduce this legislation, which is modeled on other "bad science" bills requiring that unnecessary anesthesia be administered during the course of an abortion procedure.

Utah state law already ALLOWS a doctor to administer anesthesia to an unborn fetus, but only with the woman's consent, or upon her specific request. State law also already REQUIRES a doctor to give a woman "truthful" information about "the ability of an unborn child to experience pain during an abortion procedure.

Under SB234, the law would just state, in conflict with current scientific uncertainty, that a fetus past 20 weeks of gestation CAN DEFINITELY feel pain, and therefore a woman MUST be given anesthesia (for the fetus) regardless of her consent or desire to undergo that particular medical administration.

This is a huge change - moving away from a woman choosing to be administered extra anesthesia, and toward forcing a woman (with some very limited exemptions) to underdo a medical procedure that is unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

Every woman’s circumstances are different, every pregnancy is different. Even if we disagree about abortion, we can agree it’s better that these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation between a woman and her medical provider. We can certainly agree that a woman’s health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions. Politicians aren’t medical experts and they shouldn’t be meddling.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, at least 12 states currently ban abortions after the point when certain politicians believe a fetus can feel pain. We're determined that Utah won't become such a state, and our first step in that battle will be to ensure that SB234 does NOT become law. 

 At first glance, by name alone, HB442, "ABORTION AMENDMENTS," seems slightly less inflammatory - but trust us, it's even worse that SB234. This gem, sponsored by Rep. Curt Oda of Clearfield, would ban a surgical abortion procedure so common that it would result in a ban on pretty much all surgical abortions in Utah. 

HB442 attempts to put language into statute that describes abortion, generally, in incendiary and medically inaccurate terms. The bill uses similarly provocative (and definitely inaccurate) language to describe specific common surgical abortion procedures - then declares that any doctor performing this (perfectly safe and currently legal procedure) to be guilty of a third degree felony.

The bad news about HB442 is...well, just about everything. It's insulting, inaccurate and, of course, an obvious effort to severely restrict personal and private medical decision-making. HB442 would ban safe, common methods of abortion, including the most common method in Utah and therefore could block access to abortion for many women.

The good news about HB442 - if you can call it good news! - is that the bill is so obviously an attempt to ban, outright, surgical abortions that, if it ends up as state law, it will be pretty simple to challenge in court. HB442 is an anti-choice screed that is plainly unconstitutional.

No matter how we feel, individually, about abortion, one thing we should be able to agree on is the inappropriateness of political interference in private medical decisions. Lots of things can happen during a pregnancy, and its important that we allow doctors and their patients the flexibility to make the right medical decisions in the moment.

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