Members of the grass-roots political lobbying group have claimed that they wrote the first version of a state law banning indirect or direct public funding of abortions. And, they insist, bureaucratic rule-making after the fact goes around the legislative process.
At a public hearing Monday about a dozen abortion foes railed against the rule and ignored health department attorney Doug Springmeyer's repeated statements that the rule will not allow public funding of abortions for mothers whose babies will not survive birth.
Dave Hansen with Accountability Utah said, "This is clearly not what we intended to do when we passed this law."
Utah hospitals stopped early delivery of fatally deformed fetuses in May for fear of losing Medicaid funding. That same month, doctors at McKay-Dee Hospital sent a Roy couple whose baby's organs were growing outside its body to a Salt Lake City abortion clinic. Health department director Scott Williams issued an emergency rule in June to allow hospitals to perform the rare procedures pending adoption of a final rule. Meantime, health department attorneys started crafting a rule establishing an accounting method for hospitals to prove that only "non-public" funds paid for early delivery of fatally deformed fetuses.
Senate Bill 68 sponsor Sen. Curtis Bramble, a Republican from Provo, has said Accountability Utah had nothing to do with his 2004 legislation. But co-sponsoring Midvale Rep. Morgan Philpot acknowledged that Accountability Utah member Daniel Newby gave him a draft during the 2003 session.
Philpot says legislative attorneys actually wrote the first version of the law two years ago. "Did [Accountability Utah] draft it? No. Did they give input? Yes," Philpot said.
Members of the group feel a clear sense of ownership of the law. Since the proposed health department rule first was published July 1, Accountability Utah and other pro-life groups have requested two public hearings and amendments to the rule. The rule's definition of public funds has been changed and references to investment income and federal funds have been deleted.
At Monday's hearing, audience members were not satisfied. They questioned what crisis forced Williams to issue an emergency rule. They wondered why the term "grave fetal defects" is not included in the text of the rule. And, some charged, the health department should change its mission statement if the rule will allow terminations to continue.
The public comment period on the rule expires Oct. 2. The rule could take effect as soon as Oct. 3. Williams' emergency ruling expires Oct. 7.