A bill requiring women considering an abortion to first complete an “information module” that discourages the procedure appears to soon be headed for Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.
SB118 would abandon the state’s current abortion education materials — including a brochure and a lengthy 1980s-era video — in favor of the module, which would be viewed on a digital tablet such as an iPad. Medical professionals who don’t provide the program and certify a woman has viewed it could face a class A misdemeanor charge, according to the legislation sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.
“What we’re talking about is education. We’re making it more personal and private,” the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, said Tuesday. He added legislators wanted to “recognize the sanctity and weight of the decision that’s being made” by a woman.
SB118 passed the House with a 59-10 vote Tuesday after easily clearing the Senate last month. It now returns to the Senate for final approval of minor tweaks to the bill’s language made in the House.
Weiler has said the tablet-based course would be viewed in the clinic. It would eliminate certain interactions between a woman and clinic employees that now include giving her a scripted statement about abortions, printed resources and the video.
The module removes the need for the half-hour video, which Weiler has said is out of date and “no one watches.” The video shows a fetal heartbeat and incremental stages of pregnancy, while also telling viewers about adoption and state support.
Outside the new information module, SB118 directs the Utah Department of Health to “pursue all administrative and legal remedies” against physicians who don’t comply with the state’s abortion laws, including reporting them to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the bill has a “paternalistic” attitude toward women, essentially telling them the Legislature assumes they have not done their homework before seeking an abortion. The bill sends a message to women that “we at the Utah Legislature think we know better than you do,” King said.
“I can’t bring myself to support the kind of Big Brother approach that this bill embodies, so I’ll be voting no,” King said.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, also opposed the bill. She said it amounted to a “prescriptive script” that women are forced to follow before an abortion — even if they know they must have the abortion because their fetus is unlikely to survive.
Feb. 1, 2018 — Utah abortion bill would ditch 1980s-era video in favor of making pregnant women complete an ‘information module’ that discourages the procedure
New abortion legislation unveiled in the Utah Senate would eliminate rules that women be provided with a brochure and 1980s-era video on the procedure, replacing those materials with an interactive “information module” to be viewed on a digital tablet.
Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, also says doctors or other medical professionals who don’t provide the materials and certify a woman has viewed them could face a class A misdemeanor.
SB118 also adds requirements that the Utah Department of Health report any physician who does not comply with the new rules module — or other abortion law provisions — to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, which oversees licensing for the state’s doctors.
In addition, the bill directs state health officials to “pursue all administrative and legal remedies” against physicians who don’t comply.
SB118 passed unanimously out of a Senate committee late Wednesday, and now heads to the Senate floor.
Weiler said his proposal would eliminate the need for a half-hour abortion video produced by the state in the 1980s, which the senator said “no one watches” and is no longer accurate.
The video shows a fetal heartbeat and incremental stages of pregnancy, while also telling viewers about adoption and state support. “The state of Utah encourages anyone contemplating an abortion to consider childbirth and adoption as preferred alternatives,” the video’s narrator says at one point.
Weiler said Wednesday the tablet-based new information module would need to be viewed in the clinic, eliminating interactions with abortion clinic employees who before provided a scripted statement about abortions, printed resources and the video.
In Utah, a woman must wait 72 hours between her initial consultation and receiving an abortion.
Last summer, Weiler said, he met with three women who had visited abortion clinics and found the presentations were “very sarcastic.”
Weiler said he was offended by this, and did not appreciate Planned Parenthood employees or other medical workers telling women that “the Legislature requires us to tell you this. The Legislature requires us to tell you that.”
The module, he said, would last about 15 minutes and instead allow women to absorb the information in an “accurate and neutral manner.”
The module, like the existing video, would be required to “present adoption as a preferred and positive choice,” and would be “produced in a manner that conveys the state’s preference for childbirth over abortion,” according to the bill. The Department of Health also would be required to maintain a public website with similar information.
The bill would require the Department of Health to release the module, which legislators would sign off on, before 2019.
Representatives from several conservative groups said Wednesday they strongly supported the legislation, including Pro Life Utah, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and Family Watch International.
Heather Stringfellow, vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood of Utah, said SB118 would change how it delivers its state-mandated “informed consent” information about abortions to women, but not the medical consultation a woman receives at a clinic before an abortion.
The proposed legislation “doesn’t really change the fact that state-mandated informed consent does little to reduce the number of abortions in the state of Utah,” Stringfellow said. Planned Parenthood would comply with the proposed change, “but objects to the idea in general.”
Utah legislators, who over the years have enacted some of the strictest abortion laws in the U.S., also are considering a bill this session that would ban a doctor from providing an abortion if the woman’s sole reason is that the fetus has tested positive for Down syndrome.
A legal review found such a law would likely be found unconstitutional, but the legislation — HB205 — continues to move forward.