Michelle Quist: Male senators grandstand with intrusive abortion bill

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, in the Senate Chamber, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.

The entire bipartisan cadre of female senators in the Utah Legislature walked off the Senate floor Tuesday night in a unified show of disdain for the bill being voted on – House Bill 364, titled Abortion Revisions. The sponsors of HB364 are Rep. Steve R. Christiansen, R-West Jordan, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo.

The bill requires that before a pregnant woman can receive an abortion, a medical professional must display live fetal images from an ultrasound, describe the fetal images, make audible the fetal heartbeat and provide written confirmation of the procedure.

Most ultrasounds during the first trimester are transvaginal ultrasounds. The procedure involves a woman lying on a table with her feet in stirrups while a technician or doctor inserts a 12-inch lubricated probe into her vagina, which causes very uncomfortable pressure, as you can imagine. The procedure lasts 30 to 60 minutes.

Thirty to 60 minutes.

This is the procedure the Utah Legislature, composed mostly of male legislators who grandstand on small-government principles, tried to mandate that a woman submit to before receiving a constitutionally protected abortion.

Do I seem worked up? I am. And you should be, too. This isn’t about abortion. This is about government intrusion into a woman’s medical relationship with her doctor in an abusively abhorrent way.

It took a woman – Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork – to offer an amendment to prohibit the use of transvaginal ultrasounds in the bill and rely instead on abdominal ultrasounds.

But it’s still the government mandating that a woman receive an unnecessary medical procedure. The bill is still an invasive, big-government Orwellian overstep by the majority-male Utah Legislature. But they don’t care. They’re blinded by their ever-increasing desire to be more pro-life than the guy before them.

Doctors who fail to comply are subject to a $100,000 fine for the first offense and a $250,000 fine thereafter. The medical establishment is similarly up in arms.

Utah’s female senators weren’t having it. They walked out during the vote and refused to take part in the farce. Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, tweeted a picture of the six female senators hugging in the hallway after the walk-out. She described it as a “spontaneous decision not planned of sisterhood against the invasive nature of HB 364.”

The problem is, we only have six female senators – enough to make a point, but not to change the vote.

What’s next? When the baby becomes more important than the mother carrying it, there is no stop to what the government might start mandating. What about forcing women to eat healthy during pregnancy? Mandated vitamins and folic acid? A regular exercise plan, for sure. Oh, but not too much. Controlled weight gain, definitely. But not too much.

All these things are necessary to bring a healthy baby to term, aren’t they?

Of course, once the baby is here, the Utah Legislature is back to making sure government doesn’t intrude. Child support? Less than half of custodial parents – mostly women – receive the full amount of child support. Protections for women in the workplace who just lost their job because they were pregnant for nine months? Nope. Equal pay? Nope. Paid leave to care for the infant? Nope. The Utah Legislature won’t even require unpaid leave for women to care for infants.

Heck, the Utah Legislature barely passed legislation to take advantage of federal funds to allow low-income children participate in free breakfasts at school. The money quote – “parents should be parents … my mother fixed me breakfast.”

Somehow the ends justify the means when you have a myopic vision of appearing pro-life above and beyond anything else.

Yet every policy disproportionately affects women. Do we have mandated vasectomies for men who cause unplanned pregnancies? Nope. That would be absurd.

Then why isn’t it just as absurd to force women to lay on a table with her legs in stirrups while a stranger inserts a 12-inch probe into her vagina? Have they lost their minds?

It’s not the ERA that threatens to promote abortion. The Utah Legislature is doing that on its own.

When you vilify women for having an unplanned pregnancy and force them to shoulder the entire responsibility, and then mandate unnecessary, costly and emotionally scarring procedures, you’re doing more harm than good. There’s a better way to be pro-life.

Michelle Quist

Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.