‘A great day for the babies’: Gayle Ruzicka marks end of abortion after 50-year fight

Ruzicka says she would support a federal effort to ban abortion.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gayle Ruzicka with the Utah Eagle Forum speaks during a legislative hearing in February 2022.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Gayle Ruzicka told The Tribune on Friday morning. “Today is a great day.”

It was a day the longtime conservative activist and president of the Utah Eagle Forum has been waiting for four decades. Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, abortion in the United States is no longer a constitutionally protected right, and, in Utah, it will soon be illegal in most cases.

Utah’s trigger law to ban abortion, which was approved in 2020, will go into effect when it’s certified by the Legislature’s general counsel.

“I remember the shock and the pain, almost 50 years ago, when seven Supreme Court Justices voted in support of Roe v. Wade, making abortion on demand legal in all 50 states,” Ruzicka wrote in a Utah Eagle Forum blog post Friday. “I am grateful that I have lived long enough to see the end of Roe.”

Ruzicka said Friday that she’s very supportive of Utah’s trigger law, as the legislation could take effect in the coming days. She added that if Congress would propose a bill to ban abortions on the federal level, she would support that legislation. However, many steps would have to take place in order for that to happen, Ruzicka said, like having a president that would sign it into law.

Ruzicka’s activism began over four decades ago in Idaho, when she learned of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), an effort to guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex. It would also guarantee that no one can be denied of their constitutional rights on the basis of sex. During a 2019 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Ruzicka said the ERA would have eliminated certain protections for women, like being eligible to be drafted into the military.

After the U.S. House and U.S. Senate approved the ERA in 1971 and 1972 respectively, the amendment needed 38 states to ratify for it to become law before a deadline in 1979, and the deadline was later extended to 1982.

Thanks in part to the efforts of people like Ruzicka, the legislation never passed enough states to become an amendment to the U.S. constitution.

It was during Ruzicka’s opposition to the ERA that she met Phyllis Schlafly, who founded the national Eagle Forum in the 1970s and is considered one of the main figures that prevented the ERA from becoming ratified. Schlafly was a vocal opponent of topics like abortion and gay rights, and she remained in politics until her death in 2016, endorsing Donald Trump months before he won the Republican nomination.

During a 2019 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Ruzicka said her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has informed her activism, saying if something doesn’t align with her faith, she doesn’t get involved.

Though Latter-day Saints are often perceived as anti-abortion, the church allows for abortions in some instances, like in the event of rape or incest, severe defects or if a mother’s life is threatened. The church is, however, against abortions for “personal or social convenience,” according to a 1991 statement on the issue.

Ruzicka added that the Utah Eagle Forum is planning to hold a “Celebration of Life” event at the Utah State Capitol on July 2. The group’s website says the rally is meant to commemorate “a new era of life for Utah’s unborn babies.”

The Utah Eagle Forum published a post on its website Friday saying it was “a triumphant day for unborn babies and their mothers.”

“This is certainly a great day for the babies,” Ruzicka said Friday.