Abortion and hygiene tax among Legislature’s contentious issues

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SALT LAKE CITY — Tampons and diapers will continue to be taxed, breastfeeding women should enjoy great protection from discrimination and women’s abortion rights became a hot topic the final hours of the legislative session.

Rick Bowmer
Members of the Senate debate on the Senate floor the final days of the 2016 legislative session.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Despite opposition from health care providers, SB234 passed, making anesthesia required by law for fetus’ during abortions performed in Utah.

In one of the bill’s final hearings, an OB-GYN said, “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has publicly stated that this kind of legislation is not based on science, nor is it in line with standard medical ethics.”

Before passing the bill, both the Senate and the House adopted amendments that made it clear the anesthesia is not mandated in cases where is could endanger the health of the mother and will not affect abortions in cases where the fetus is not viable.

Utah law previously required abortion providers to inform patients about whether a fetus may feel pain, communicate the medical risks associated with the administration of anesthesia and offer anesthesia before the procedure began. However, anesthesia will now be mandatory throughout the entire state.

Utah was also in the national minority with the introduction of HB202, which sought to eliminate sales tax on hygiene products such as diapers, liners, pads, tampons and sanitary napkins.

Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, sponsored HB202 and said she believes these hygiene products should be put into the category of “medical necessities” and are “forces of nature.” However, her hygiene tax bill did not progress far in legislation.

Utah law still prohibits taxation on medical prescriptions and continues to tax feminine hygiene products.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sought to revise Utah’s Anti-discrimination Act with SB59, which passed in legislation.

Weiler said women in Utah had felt harassed and discriminated against when needing to pump breastmilk at work and when taking restroom breaks for breastfeeding at the workplace.

SB59 requires companies with 15 or more employees to do things like give nursing or pregnant mothers extra breaks during the day or not to require a pregnant women to lift more than 20 pounds.

Legislature approved the bill’s demands on businesses to accommodate breastfeeding mothers, despite concerns raised about whether the bill could lead to mothers bringing babies to the workplace.

Rep. Jani Iwamoto’s bill on anti-discrimination in the work place compliments Wieler’s bill and focuses on provisions related to employment that do discriminate against women and other employees.

Her bill, SB185, requires the Division of Anti-discrimination and Labor to report to the Business and Labor Interim Committee annually regarding discrimination in matters of compensation.

 

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