Senate: Incestuous dad knows best
Incest is no exception to a father's right to know what's going on in his daughter's life.
That was the message from Utah lawmakers who refused Monday to make an exception for incest victims in a proposed law that would require parental consent and notification before a girl's abortion.
"There is a life inside of this life. And how that life is taken care of is very important to me," said Sen. Darin Peterson, R-Nephi.
Current Utah law - which was adopted in 1974 - requires doctors to notify a girl's parents before ending her pregnancy. HB85, sponsored by Ogden Republican Rep. Kerry Gibson and Peterson, would change state code to require doctors to get at least one parent's permission 24 hours before the procedure. Doctors could proceed without consent in medical emergencies or to protect the health of the mother.
The bill would allow girls to ask a judge to bypass the parental consent requirement if she fears abuse or is pregnant as a result of incest. At the same time, the legislation still would require a doctor to notify a girl's parents of the abortion, effectively nullifying the judicial bypass.
Salt Lake City Democratic Sen. Scott McCoy tried to amend the bill Monday to grant an exception to the notification requirement in "very narrow situations" where a girl's father also is the father of her baby.
Peterson argued that parental notification "hasn't been a problem" for 30 years. Why would notification after a judicial bypass be a problem? "What we're trying to do is allow a parent a say in what happens in this youth's life," he said.
But Sen. Patrice Arent said Peterson was closing his eyes to the "real world." The Murray Democrat said Utah lawmakers are setting up a situation where a girl who has been raped by her father would go to court to avoid telling her parents of her abortion. But the doctor still would notify one or both of those parents, who could be complicit in the incest.
"That doesn't make sense," Arent said. "This poor girl has gone through enough already."
Senators rejected the amendment on a voice vote.
Of about 3,300 abortions performed in Utah two years ago (the most recent data available), 195 were for girls under 18. According to statistics from the Utah Department of Health, 24 of those girls were younger than 15, and 171 were 15 to 17 years old.
The bill will have another hearing in the Senate, but is tabled with a $31,500 fiscal note based on estimates of extra court costs.
Conservative senators said the legislation is a test of their morals.
West Jordan Republican Sen. Chris Buttars scoffed at McCoy's suggestion that the legislation might force teens to other states for abortions or into their bathrooms to attempt the procedure on themselves.
"Abortion isn't about women's rights. The rights they had were when they made the decision to have sex," Buttars said. "This is the consequences. The consequence is they should have to talk to their parents."
And Peterson said restricting access to abortion sends a message.
"I'm not sure we should run away from the morals we have," he said. "We're told we can't teach abstinence in our schools. We're told to keep our religion out of our schools. I'm not sure we shouldn't stand on our morals and yell them from the mountaintops."