You have to hand it to state Sen. Margaret Dayton — she never gives up on her ultraconservative ideals.
This time, the Orem Republican is sponsoring a bill that would require Utah to collect data on women who undergo abortions, including their race and their reason for doing so.
The Utah Department of Health already gathers such information for the federal government. But Dayton worries that if the feds change the way they use that data, the state will be out of the loop. Thus the Utah form along with the federal form.
Seems simple enough, but Dayton — known for her fierce opposition to legal abortion — wants to restrict the pathway to abortion in Utah. Like too many other lawmakers, she refuses to accept that a woman’s right to choose is legal, and has been since 1973.
This state has been through the mill many times on abortion. In the early 1990s, a bill that would have banned most elective abortions sailed through the Legislature, only to be shot down by a federal court at a cost of about $1 million to Utah taxpayers.
In the years since, the Legislature — long dominated by Republican lawmakers — have passed other anti-abortion measures, including last year’s imposition of a three-day waiting period between the time a woman decides to have an abortion and when she can have it.
That opposition, though, has run afoul of many Utahns who understand that it’s not up to anyone but a woman to make what is often a wrenching decision to end a pregnancy.
This year, Dayton dropped her proposed bill that would ban so-called sex-selection abortions, which rarely if ever are performed here. But, most recently, she conceded that the data-collection bill could be a foundation for pursuing other legislation.
That’s an ominous message to those of us who honor a woman’s right to choose and, most important, to women who one day may have to make such a choice.
As Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, asked in a Senate session Tuesday: Would the collection of additional information “contribute to more agony to this personal decision?”
Dayton deflected that question by asking if Democrats wondered if “we are interfering with the right of a woman to have an abortion or what she’s going to say about it.” On the contrary, she said, the bill focuses only on whether the state gets the same information as the federal government.
On Wednesday, when the measure cleared the Senate and headed for the House, she apologized for anything in her earlier presentation that the Democrats might have found “offensive.”
That statement was polite, but the bottom line is that Dayton is fighting against legal abortion, and she’s losing.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.