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Proposal to change Utah GOP platform on abortion eliminates language on exceptions for rape, incest and preserving life of the mother

Proposed change takes a harder stance on abortion than the LDS Church.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hundreds of anti-abortion activists rally at Pro-Life Utah's March for Life at the Utah Capitol on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.

Amid the campaigning and politicking at the Utah Republican State Convention on Saturday, delegates will also consider a change to the party platform that takes a much harder line on abortion.

Currently, the “Right to Life” plank reads, “We strongly oppose abortion, except to preserve the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.” The proposed change would replace the exceptions with the phrase “and encourage adoption.”

Weber County Republican Delegate Bob McEntee believes the proposed change helps reframe the party’s position to focus on other available options than terminating a pregnancy.

“I want people to understand that there’s a long line of people that want to adopt a baby. However hard it might be if they get through that pregnancy and give that child up for adoption, I think that would be a better solution,” McEntee said.

McEntee argues his proposed change does not advocate for eliminating those exceptions. An alternative version of McEntee’s change says both the mother and unborn child have a fundamental right to life and “preserving the life of a mother is always permissible.” However, the convention rules prohibit any alteration of the current proposal.

McEntee defended the deliberate omission of the rape and incest exception from the platform change.

“It’s kind of ugly language. We don’t need to talk about rape or incest. That almost sounded like a permission slip to go get an abortion if this happens. We want to put in people’s minds adoption,” McEntee said.

The exceptions to preserve the health of the mother or in cases of incest has been a rare point of agreement around the abortion debate for decades. In 2018, Gallup found more than 80% of Americans supported abortion in the first three months of pregnancy to preserve the life of the mother. The same poll found 77% said terminating a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest would be acceptable.

During his 2012 presidential run, Mitt Romney said he supported abortion in the case of rape and incest. Even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes those exceptions in its official position on abortion.

“I think the LDS Church has given kind of light value to the life of an unborn baby in this case, even though it could be distressing to the mother. We’re not asking lawmakers to outlaw abortion because of rape or incest. We just want to remind people not to forget about adoption as an alternative,” McEntee said.

The proposed platform change comes when access to abortion is being severely cut back in several states. Mississippi and Texas both passed restrictive abortion bans that do not include any exceptions. The Supreme Court seems poised to roll back abortion rights and may even reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

McEntee says the timing of his proposal is just a coincidence. The party platform can only be changed every two years during nominating conventions. He had hoped to introduce his proposal two years ago, but COVID-19 forced Republicans to hold a virtual convention, and platform changes were nixed.

Saturday’s debate on the change will be brief, even considering it is such a dramatic shift. The convention rules allot McEntee just one minute to argue for his change, followed by 4 minutes of debate and another 60 seconds for summation. A two-thirds vote in favor is required to adopt the change.

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