SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Republican lawmakers in Utah have proposed two bills to restrict abortions, including a ban on the procedure after 15 weeks that would be among the strictest laws in the nation.
The state should bar second-trimester procedures that “shock the conscience,” said Rep. Cheryl Acton, the sponsor of the bill that is likely to be challenged in court if passed.
“It’s one thing to be told ‘no’ by the courts, and it’s entirely another thing to tell ourselves no because we lack the will to stand up to injustice,” she said.
Utah’s legislative session begins Monday.
Conservative states around the country are expected to consider strong abortion restrictions this year amid optimism about the reconfiguring of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.
A similar 15-week ban in Mississippi was struck down by a federal appeals court last year. The state is appealing.
A Louisiana measure is on hold.
Acton said her bill in Utah has exemptions for the health of a mother and cases of rape or incest. But she’s not sure how the measure might fare before the high court.
The group Alliance for a Better Utah said the bill would set up a costly legal fight if approved.
The Legislature’s lawyers also warned the bill is likely unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, which held a woman had the right to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus can survive outside the womb, and that states may not put any impose undue burden on access to abortion. The opinion was released by Democratic state lawmaker Karen Kwan, who opposes the plan.
Acton estimated legal costs could exceed $1 million if the state loses.
Rep. Karianne Lisonbee is re-introducing a proposal to ban abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome. She said the measure would prevent the “mass extermination” of an entire group of people.
“That kind of discrimination must end,” she said in a statement. The bill won support in the state House of Representatives last year but failed to pass in the Senate.
Planned Parenthood of Utah said in a statement that a decision to terminate a pregnancy is often deeply personal and complex, and should be left to women, their families and their doctors.
“It is important that it remain a safe and legal medical procedure for a woman to consider if and when she needs it,” group president Karrie Galloway said.
Ohio passed a similar Down syndrome bill, but it was blocked by a federal judge who said opponents will likely show it’s unconstitutional.
If passed, Lisonbee’s bill would not be effective until after a judge approves the concept.
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