Ellen Brady: Utah Legislature has declared open season on women and their rights

Lawmakers out to strip power from other branches of government.

I was pleased to see that the Senate circled HJR2 - Joint Resolution Amending the Rules of Civil Procedure on Injunctions. However, a new version is now under consideration. Unfortunately, the changes seem aimed at circumventing Utah Bar Association objections by narrowing the right to challenge injunctions to those levied against legislation. However, this new version fails to deal with two other fundamental issues.

First, it makes the intent to remove a judicial check on legislative power more apparent. This is disturbing, given the Legislature’s long-standing efforts to strip power from the executive branch, including from the attorney general, the governor and agencies such as the Health Department.

It has also stripped authority from municipal and county governments and neutralized the voices of Utah citizens by overturning or gutting ballot initiatives including those designed to ensure a non-partisan redistricting process. Accordingly, the judiciary has become the last line of defense against laws that openly violate the civil and constitutional rights of Utah citizens.

Sen. Kirk Cullimore’s SB129 - Judicial Amendments - takes this trend further in its effort to undo a carefully crafted and balanced process for selecting judicial nominees. By removing partisan balance on the nominating commission, it ensures the dominance of one side of the ideological spectrum.

Sadly, we are seeing the devastating effects of these shifts throughout the judiciary, threatening the safety and basic human rights of many. The Dobbs decision and subsequent messaging aside, a federal appeals court just ruled that guns couldn’t be kept out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers.

Is it really open season on women via unfettered gun rights? Contrary to the “originalist” mentality currently in favor, I don’t think that our Founding Fathers envisioned the slaughter of women and children enabled by unregulated gun ownership. Our Founding Mothers certainly would have objected, had they been given a voice/place in our constitution.

Related, I was also pleased to see that SB87 and SJR6 are also circled. Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault do not need to be subjected to additional traumatic rounds of questioning by defense attorneys during the preliminary hearing process when they are already profoundly reluctant to report and prosecute the crimes against them.

That brings me to the second issue with HJR2. As with the first, it makes the primary intent even more clear - that of overturning the injunction against Utah’s “trigger ban” abortion law. Again, is it open season on women and their bodily autonomy and their right to make very personal and nuanced decisions regarding their health, their lives, and their families?

I could write a long essay on abortion from many different perspectives and already have written a short version. Instead, I simply beg our Legislature to recognize that there are valid reasons to put a pause on the implementation of SB174 until the courts can resolve its validity under Utah’s Constitution.

Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Utah Constitution actually guarantees equal rights to women. Let’s enforce that clause rather than forcing women to carry and birth a child they are not prepared to parent without harming themselves and their existing families/relationships.

To that point, I encourage you to inform yourselves as to the differences in many outcome measures for women/children/families who were denied access to abortion vs those who were able to obtain it. The Turn Away Study provides important and convincing data that women, their existing and future children, and their families are not harmed by abortion access. Rather, they benefit in many profound and important ways.

Please urge your senators to vote against HJR2, SB129, and SB87/SJR6. Women’s lives matter. Our democracy matters. Our Constitution matters.

Ellen Brady, M.D.

Ellen Brady, M.D., is issues director for the Women’s Democratic Club of Utah.