Tribune Editorial: No Utah woman is safe when the Legislature is in session

“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

Gideon J. Tucker

If Tucker, a 19th century attorney and journalist who lived in New York, found himself in 21st century Utah, he might alter his famous aphorism to read, “No woman’s life, liberty or body are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

The eagerness of certain Utah lawmakers to make life more difficult for women is nothing new, of course, but this year it seems especially aggressive

The most obvious example of legislation aimed at controlling and discounting the lives of women is House Bill 253, a measure that would require any woman seeking an abortion to undergo the deliberate psychic torture of watching videos of abortion procedures, listening to a recording of a fetal heartbeat and certifying, on penalty of perjury, that she has really taken all of that in.

This proposal only makes sense if you believe that women cannot be trusted to make one of the most fundamentally personal decisions there is, the decision of whether or not to bear a child. It is based on the belief that, if only women were subjected to even more legally mandated mansplaining, politicians inserting themselves uninvited into the doctor-patient relationship, the outcomes might be different.

Pro-business Republicans may want to consider whether giving Utah a thoroughly retrograde reputation among those who stand for women’s rights is going to be good for the economic growth they claim to favor.

Also moving through the legislative process this session is House Bill 21, a bill that would make it even more difficult than it already is for a woman who feels threatened by an ex-husband, former boyfriend or random stalker to get a protective order demanding that the perceived aggressor keep his distance.

As is so often the case with legislation in Utah, this bill arises from a single anecdote told to a single lawmaker, in this case a man who spent a night in jail for allegedly stalking a former girlfriend. No charges were filed in that case, as prosecutors felt there wasn’t enough evidence to prove criminal intent.

It’s not that any law limiting any kind of behavior can’t go too far. But the threat many women feel from unwanted attention from men — showing up at their workplaces, even appearing at remote campsites — is real and there should be legal tools in place to ease that fear.

This law should remain as it is, and gentlemen should learn to take a hint when a lady no longer wishes to see you.

Also fitting into this list of proposals to make the lives of women less safe is House Bill 60, the latest in the perpetual campaign to remove the Utah requirement for the training course and permit needed to legally carry a concealed weapon.

It is no violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms to impose a minimal training class, which includes information about weapons, the law and the risks of suicide, before any person can pack heat. It is a basic expression of the need to balance rights and protect public safety.

It is only common sense that more guns, carried by more people, with no training or review, will lead to more violence and death. In a few cases, that violence will, indeed, be in justified self-defense. In far more cases — road rage, suicide and, again of particular concern to women, domestic violence — it won’t be.

Gun violence in Utah is clearly a women’s issue. Tribune reporting showed that domestic violence, mostly against women, was responsible for 44 percent of all homicides in 2017 and 30 percent of them in 2016.

It is most unfortunate that, while such bills were rightly blocked by the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it attitude of former Gov. Gary Herbert, new Gov. Spencer Cox says he would sign such a bill if it were to reach him.

Taken together, these three bills would move Utah further away from being a state that holds women as equal before the law and takes their safety and liberty seriously.

To let your legislators know how you feel about these and other measures, you can go here.