A bill to requiring more data collection about abortions in Utah advanced a step Tuesday, despite lots of questions and some testy exchanges about whether it is a back-door attempt to make it more uncomfortable for women to choose abortions.
The Senate voted 21-2 to advance SB60 to a final Senate vote later this week. It would require state collection of data on the race or ethnicity of women having abortions, the stage of pregnancy when they occur and the stated reason, if any, for choosing the abortion.
Its sponsor, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said the federal government already requires filling out forms that provide such information, and she wants the Utah Health Department to collect it — and to ensure collection of that data continues if federal forms change.
But Democrats questioned whether it might require more extensive information collection, and may be designed to hinder or make women uncomfortable when seeking abortions.
"I think there are times when people go through some agonizing experiences and to ask them for extra information that might contribute to more agony to this personal decision, I’m not sure I feel comfortable with that," Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said.
She asked Dayton if answering questions on federal forms is truly voluntary, or could delay or hinder receiving an abortion if withheld. Dayton said it is her understanding it is voluntary.
Jones said, "Sometimes when you say, ‘It is my understanding,’ I wonder if that is in fact true. Do we have something that actually does show that in fact those who are seeking an abortion for whatever reason are required to answer that information?"
Dayton responded, "What I seem to be receiving [in] questions from the other side of the aisle is whether or not we are interfering with the right of a woman to have an abortion or what she’s going to say about it. This bill focuses only on making available to the state the same kind of information that the federal government is gathering."
She said such data can help the Legislature make "wise decisions" when it deals with policy on abortion and related issues.
Karrie Galloway, director of Planned Parenthood of Utah, confirmed that all the information required in the bill already is collected on federal forms filled out by providers. She questioned the need for duplicating rules already in place.
"[Dayton] has intent that is not always in the same interests I have for women’s health," said Galloway. "I don’t know whether she needed an abortion bill and now she has one."
Dayton earlier explored the possibility of running a bill that would ban abortions based on the gender of the fetus — a practice she has said may be happening in some cultures. She decided against introducing that measure, choosing instead to sponsor the data collection bill, which she said could provided needed information in determining whether to pursue the other legislation.
SB60 requires another Senate vote before it goes to the House for debate. The measure currently is the only bill listed under the abortion subject heading in the Legislature’s bill index.
Dan Harrie contributed to this report.
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