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Senate advances abortion bill with little debate

Published March 8, 2012 7:41 am

HB461 • The proposed 72-hour waiting period wins overwhelming support on initial vote.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Creating the nation's longest waiting period for abortions in Utah stirred almost no debate Wednesday in the Utah Senate.

Senators voted 22-6 to give preliminary approval to HB461. It is now one final vote away from going to the governor for signature — which is expected to come on the Legislature's final day Thursday. All opposing votes Wednesday came from Democrats — although outgoing Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, did support it.

Formal debate took only about a minute.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, the Senate sponsor of the bill, was the only speaker, and used most of that time to describe how the bill would lengthen the waiting period from 24 hours to 72.

"I've stood on this floor in years past and said … if I could offer a bill here that would overturn Roe v. Wade [the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion] and protect the life of the unborn, I would," Bramble said. "The Supreme Court has ruled differently."

Two Democrats did ask for some time to explain their opposition during the roll-call vote.

"I don't believe trying to frustrate an individual for trying to make that choice [for an abortion] is appropriate for the state to be involved in," Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said.

Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said, "I think this is meant to interfere with this difficult decision," and added that women start thinking about whether to have an abortion long before they meet with a doctor.

One other state — South Dakota — has implemented a 72-hour waiting period for abortion, but a federal judge has blocked that law from taking effect, saying the waiting period and other restrictions in the law posed an undue burden to women — including making it more difficult on women who must travel long distances.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, sponsor of the bill, told the House in earlier debate, "An abortion cannot be undone. … Why would we not want to afford a woman facing a life-changing decision 72 hours to consider ramifications that could last a lifetime?"

The bill has been opposed by groups including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Utah.

After the House earlier endorsed the bill, Karrie Galloway, director of Planned Parenthood of Utah said, "That makes Utah the most pejorative in telling women how much time they need to take."