Utah is one of the 13 states that has a trigger law to ban abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
SB174 passed in 2020 with exemptions for rape or incest, risk to the mother’s life and certain fetal defects. At the recent Utah Republican Convention, there was talk of an amendment to eliminate all exemptions and replace them with language to “encourage adoption.”
Yet, to protect the unborn, we often neglect the needs of the people who live in our communities. As teachers and legislators, we see scenarios in our schools, in every neighborhood, where our communities are trying to repair and support families and children that do not have the resources or security they need to thrive and even survive. Pro-life should be pro-all life.
To promote healthy, thriving families across the state, we need to provide education and resources to eliminate abuse in all households. In 2021, 9,062 children were confirmed as victims of abuse, and of these cases, 1,469 kids were placed in foster care. These children will experience trauma that could potentially impact them for a lifetime. They are doubly victimized because the violence they have experienced will impact their ability to be independent and live fulfilling lives.
Last year, individuals experiencing homelessness continued to increase – families, veterans and students all suffering from a lack of security that a home provides. On any given day, Utah has an estimated 3,131 experiencing homelessness, of whom 290 were families. During the previous year, 13,745 students experienced homelessness by staying at a shelter, unsheltered, hotels or doubling up with another family. Changing schools, disrupting learning and friendships, the instability of their lives leads to further problems for our community and the families involved.
According to the Utah Food Bank, 58.5 million meals were served last year. One in 10 Utahns experiences food insecurity. Utahns who experience food insecurity have increased rates of suicide, depression, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. These ailments last a lifetime and disproportionately impact lower-income families. Utah can do more to meet the needs of potential mothers. Abortions are often considered by women because of a lack of security.
In Utah, two in 11 females will be the victims of interpersonal violence, and nearly half of female homicide victims are killed by a current or former male intimate partner. 9.6% of female students were physically hurt by someone they were dating. These women need and deserve an education in prevention strategies to protect them from sexual assault and violence. Young women and men, too, need the education to prevent unintended pregnancies, so they can learn about healthy relationships that can help them create trusting, loving families.
And if all these factors were not enough, Utah is at the bottom of all states in creating fair wages for females. The average Utah man earns over $57,000 a year while women make an average of just under $40,000. That 30% gap is 50th among the states. Women in Utah are up against tremendous odds.
Frequently, we reference the fetal heartbeat when discussing abortion. All the individuals referenced here have beating hearts, real needs, and have suffered through trauma and heartache. We can do more for those in our communities who struggle just to survive.
We are pro-community and pro-family because we believe all children need a community that keeps them safe and allows them to thrive. If we are serious about being pro-life, then Utah should work to create communities that are supportive to the women, families, and children who need support.
Utah Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.
Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay.