Emily Rougelot and Rachel Wasser: My body, the lawmaker’s choice?

The state of Utah has done an injustice to its female population.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People show their support for comments opposing H.B. 467 as the House Judiciary Committee meets in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

Editor’s note: Abortion remains legal in Utah up to 18 weeks, with some exceptions after that limit.

It’s no surprise that 84 out of Utah’s 104 lawmakers are Republican, or the fact that only 26 of Utah’s lawmakers are women-identifying, and out of those 26 women, only 13 are Democrat.

When it comes to Utah’s political landscape, it is anything but unpredictable. Utah is a beautiful state full of many breathtaking views, mouthwatering restaurants and a bounty of opportunities to “get outside.” However, the political environment in Utah is almost as polluted as the inversion in the winter. The unfortunate fact is that Utah is a great state filled with morally questionable politicians. So, when the legislature passed HB 467, a bill that essentially aims to ban abortion clinics in the state of Utah, it was not surprising. Disappointing? Absolutely. Shocking? Anything but.

During the 2023 legislative session, Utah’s lawmakers passed a bill, HB467, that aims to close all abortion clinics in the state by Jan. 1, 2024. This bill not only closes abortion clinics throughout the state but also enforces even more strict abortion laws (when one is allowed). Ultimately this bill ensures that obtaining an abortion in the state of Utah is essentially impossible. However, there are few instances in which an abortion is permissible in this great state: Only when the mother’s life is in danger, or the mother is a victim of incest or sexual assault. Even under those terrible circumstances, it’s still not that easy. An abortion must be performed within the first 18 weeks at a hospital or state-approved facility. However, mandating that abortions be done in hospitals or state-approved facilities will create a slew of problems with health insurance coverage and so on. This means that an individual who is a victim of sexual assault or incest might be looking at a hospital bill of upwards of $2,500 dollars for the procedure. Not only does the new law essentially eliminate abortion in the state of Utah, but it also makes it highly inaccessible for those who do meet the requirements for the procedure.

Regarding the issue of abortion, Gov. Spencer Cox has stated, “If you are pro-life, then that means you should be pro-all life, not just pro-life until birth.” While we’re sure his sentiment struck a chord with many people, on both sides of the political spectrum, it seems a bit contradicting. As they say, actions speak louder than words. Gov. Cox and the 78 other Utah lawmakers want to feel as though they are championing pro-lifers everywhere, but this bill could be fatal for many women throughout the state.

According to Planned Parenthood, legal abortion[s], “...are very safe. In fact, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures out there — it has a lower complication rate than other common medical procedures, like getting your wisdom teeth pulled. And abortion pills are safer than medicines like penicillin, Tylenol, and Viagra.” However, with limited access to abortion throughout the state, many individuals will undoubtedly seek illegal, and therefore unsafe, abortions. According to the World Health Organization, “unsafe abortion is a leading — but preventable — cause of maternal deaths and morbidities.” Some of the common risks of an unsafe abortion are hemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation and damage to the genital tract and internal organs.

Women will still seek out abortion. While you can stop safe abortions, you cannot stop unsafe ones.

The state of Utah has done an injustice to its female population. With the passage of HB 467 lawmakers have taken away women’s innate sense of freedom and bodily autonomy. This bill puts many women (and the children they are forced to birth) at risk.

If you are pro-life, be pro-all-life. And remember that there are people behind the policies you pass. Care for and consider the risks associated with eliminating abortions in Utah. If you are pro-choice, please register to vote and make your opinion heard at the polls. We urge everyone to seek change. If not for yourself, do it for the friends, mothers, daughters, granddaughters and female figures in your life.

More resources/information for change can be found at Planned Parenthood and ACLU Utah.

Emily Rougelot

Emily Rougelot was born and raised in Salt Lake City. She is a masters of social work student at the University of Utah. She is an advocate for human rights and is passionate about mental health and wellness.

Rachel Wasser

Rachel Wasser is a student at the University of Utah, studying for her master’s in social work.