A bill requiring the state to retain data on abortion statistics it currently reports to the federal government passed the Utah House despite some heated arguments Tuesday by opponents to the underlying motives for the measure.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, would require the state to gather race and ethnicity data, how far along the pregnancy was and the reason why the woman would seek an abortion.
That last piece of information was troubling to Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, who called SB60 “intrusive.” Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley City, said he feared it was laying groundwork for future abortion legislation.
It passed 56-17. Having already cleared the Senate, the measure now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for signature.
But the debate on the floor briefly morphed into a comparison between gathering private data from women on abortions and lawmakers’ reluctance to gather similar private data on people who purchase firearms.
“When you’re getting a gun permit, do they ask your race?” Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley City, asked. “Do they ask your ethnicity?”
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said there was a key difference.
“In the Constitution, recognizing inalienable rights ... recognizing the right to defend one’s life and one’s liberty,” Ivory said. “There is no right in the Constitution to terminate a life. That is the difference.”
The Supreme Court in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision ruled that there is a constitutional right to privacy which includes a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, called SB60 “overreach” by the government.
“I was shocked not one person on the other side of the aisle on the committee or for floor vote voted against this. This is a very non-civil libertarian bill. This is a very unconservative bill,” King said. “If you’re concerned about government getting out of your wallet or the bedroom or your bathroom or your doctor’s office, you can’t feel good about this bill.”
Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, said the bill wasn’t about delving into privacy — noting the information gathered doesn’t require disclosure of the identify of the person seeking the abortion and also said the information is already gathered by the federal government.
He said the bill simply allows the state to keep the data on file to track the issue and echoed Rep. Paul Ray’s belief that it might prevent future abortions with the data gathered by the state.
“The patient is asked these questions, I am sure, with great delicacy, great care between the provider and the patient,” Grover said. “They work through this situation in a very personal way, private way, dignified respecting the rights of the patient and also the unborn child.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 3,448 abortions in Utah in 2009.