Members of the Utah County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday for a resolution stating that life begins at the moment of conception and opposing the loosening of restrictions on abortion and euthanasia.
“Utah County declares itself a safe haven for all of its citizens,” the resolution states, “including the unborn, the elderly, and the mentally and physically impaired.”
The nonbinding resolution sponsored by Commission Chairman Bill Lee, comes one month after the passage of a similar resolution in Riverton City, and one week after the launch of a campaign to end elective abortions in the state.
Several members of that campaign, called Abortion-Free Utah, were present at Tuesday’s commission meeting and spoke in support of the Utah County resolution.
“Some people say that it’s the law of the land and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Merrilee Boyack, Abortion-Free Utah chairwoman. “But courageous people change laws. In fact, there was a day when slavery was the law of the land, and I don’t think anyone today would say ‘too bad, that’s the law’.”
No abortion providers are currently located in Utah County, and abortion clinics are governed by state and federal law.
Lee said it’s common for commissioners to get questions on topics that are irrelevant to their positions — he gave the example of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — but said the issue of abortion is “boiling up” and pertinent to local government.
“Mark this day in Utah County,” Lee said, “that the commissioners in Utah County are standing for all human life.”
Commissioners Tanner Ainge and Nathan Ivie also spoke in support of the resolution before joining in a 3-0 vote, with Ivie remarking that his mother was placed in a loving home by a courageous biological mother.
“There are wonderful people and families in this world who are anxious and eager to help, to love and to cherish and raise life when given the opportunity,” Ivie said.
Among the members of the public who spoke in favor of the resolution were Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, Highland Mayor Rod Mann and his wife, Suzanne Mann.
Suzanne Mann spoke about her own experience as an adopted child, and said she hopes the word “abortion” will eventually be removed from the dictionary.
“I wasn’t killed as a baby in my mother’s womb,” Mann said. “She chose life and placed me in a loving home where i was adopted and have lived a great life.”
Several of the speakers focused on adoption as an alternative to abortion. Maryann Christensen, executive director of the Utah Eagle Forum, said legal abortions have worsened the heartache of childless couples by making it harder to adopt.
“A family doesn’t really start until they’re able to have children,” Christensen said.
Other speakers objected to the potential for physical, emotional and spiritual harm related to abortions, citing their own personal experiences or those of other women. Deanna Holland, vice president of Pro-Life Utah, said women seek out abortions because they are scared and alone.
“I personally have stood outside the abortion clinic in Salt Lake County,” Holland said. “I see them come out. They are not empowered, they are broken.”
And Mike Brown, a father of five, encouraged the Utah County commissioners to not deny science.
“Science shows that is a baby, obviously, in the womb,” he said. “It is a developing human and it’s not going to, all of the sudden, come out as a stapler or some random object. No, it’s a baby, no matter how small."
While most of the individuals who spoke during the hearing supported the resolution, two women whose names could not be verified by The Tribune objected to the resolution and spoke in support of abortion rights.
“We have an obligation to protect everybody,” said one woman. “And that includes women whose options are extremely limited.”
During the most recent legislative session, Utah lawmakers approved two bills aimed at restricting access to abortion. One of those bills, prohibiting abortion based on a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome, will take effect only and if a court with jurisdiction over Utah rules favorably on similar laws in other states. The other bill, limiting legal abortion to 18 weeks of fetal development, is currently under court injunction pending the outcome of litigation.