Anti-abortion stance adopted by Highland City, joining two other Utah local governments

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Abortion-Free Utah chairman Merrilee Boyack expresses her desire to make Utah "abortion free,' as the group launches a public campaign to end elective abortion in the state of Utah during a press event in the rotunda of the Utah Capitol on Wed. June 19, 2019. As part of the campaign, Abortion-Free Utah is encouraging cities to pass anti-abortion resolutions.

Highland City officials on Tuesday unanimously adopted an anti-abortion resolution declaring that human life begins at the moment of conception and supporting laws that protect “life from its earliest stages.”

It’s the third local government to pass such a measure in recent months — with Utah County adopting a virtually identical resolution late last month and Riverton City passing a similar version before that.

A newly formed group called Abortion-Free Utah is encouraging other cities and counties across Utah to follow suit as part of a campaign to eradicate the procedure. The coalition’s chair, Merrilee Boyack, said local resolutions — though nonbinding — embolden state lawmakers to tighten the state’s abortion restrictions. The official position statements also encourage conversations about alternatives to abortion and help city leaders consider “what they can do in their arena to support life,” she said.

The Highland City took a position against lessening restrictions on abortion and euthanasia and affirming the “rights of health care providers to object on moral grounds to performing abortions or euthanasia.” City council members also declared their support for promoting adoption and educating parents in “choosing life-affirming options for their unborn children.”

An assistant city administrator confirmed that the four council members present at Tuesday’s meeting gave unanimous support to the resolution. One council member was absent from the meeting, she said.

Boyack said she’d like to see all of Utah’s cities pass similar measures and said her group is in talks with other municipal officials. She declined to identify these cities before they place an anti-abortion resolution discussion on an official meeting agenda.

The Abortion-Free Utah campaign kicked off last month with a rally at the state Capitol, during which Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, vowed to sponsor legislation to end elective abortions in the state. McCay’s spouse, Riverton City Councilwoman Tawnee McCay, led the charge for that city’s controversial passage of a resolution opposing abortion.

Lauren Simpson, policy director for the progressive-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, said that Highland City could take positive steps toward reducing unplanned pregnancies by supporting access to contraception or sex education programs. But the alliance condemned the resolution as “unnecessary and inappropriate.”

“This resolution isn’t a simple affirmation that Highland City values human life — it is a pawn in a larger political game being played by anti-abortion advocates,” Simpson said in a prepared statement. “Proponents of this resolution want to use local passage throughout Utah to justify state legislation that would radically restrict access to abortion and, in their minds, hopefully overturn Roe v. Wade in court.”