I’m a native Utahn. A lawyer. An abortion rights advocate. I have a deep love for Utah and miss its mountains and the family and friends who still live there.
What I do not miss, and certainly do not love, is the anti-abortion politics infringing on people’s access to care. Abortion is already difficult to obtain for many Utahns. It’s about to get much worse, and Utahns, regardless of political affiliation or personal beliefs, should be very worried.
Even prior to the crises we are experiencing, Utah has done everything in its power to restrict access to abortion. Utah requires a person to receive medically unnecessary, biased counseling and requires a person to wait 72 hours – three days – before having an abortion. Utah requires people to make two separate trips to a facility, regardless of circumstance such as where they live, whether they can arrange childcare, or whether they can afford to take days off from work.
To add insult to injury, Utah restricts coverage for abortion to extremely limited circumstances. And requires abortion clinics to comply with medically unnecessary regulations designed to make it more difficult to offer abortion care. Not to mention that some 97% of Utah counties have no clinics that provide abortions, and 63% of Utah women live in those counties.
This picture is about to get bleaker. The worst year for abortion rights was 2021, with states enacting more burdensome and medically unnecessary restrictions since Roe v. Wade was decided. Texas passed, and the Supreme Court greenlit, a near total abortion ban. Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma and Idaho followed suit passing extreme abortion restrictions – ranging from before most people know they’re pregnant to 15 weeks.
And, while abortion is currently a constitutional right, the Supreme Court is poised to completely overturn Roe this summer – gutting access to abortion. Utah is one of 26 states with a trigger ban, meaning it will outlaw abortion in the state when Roe falls.
States across the country, including Utah, are already beginning to see the ripple effects of abortion bans. Wait times across the country for abortion care are increasing, as people are forced to travel further to obtain care. Appointments in some places may be a month or more from when patients call inquiring about getting care. In some circumstances, particularly for Black, Indigenous, people of color, people with low incomes and people in geographically isolated areas, this is pushing abortion care out of reach entirely. And these care backlogs will be felt more acutely when Roe falls.
I want to be very clear: This is not a faraway problem, it’s right now.
There are many reasons why Utahns may need abortion care or access to the same medications used during abortion care. Reasons ranging from life circumstances, mental and physical health, fetal anomalies, miscarriages and more.
When people can’t access abortion care, we already know what happens. Research shows that women denied abortion are more likely to experience serious medical conditions during the end of pregnancy, more likely to remain in relationships where violence is present and more likely to be trapped in poverty.
Research also demonstrates that states with higher numbers of abortion restrictions are the same states with poorer maternal health outcomes. And while many Utahns are going to have healthy pregnancies, some will experience conditions where abortion is a necessary option.
When it is impossible for Utahns to access the full range of pregnancy related care, including abortion, the people that I love – my family, friends – they suffer. We cannot accept a world without abortion access. Utahns deserve better.
MiQuel Davies, Washington, D.C., is an health care public policy advocate, a 2017 graduate of William & Mary Law School and received her bachelor of social work from the University of Utah.