HB136: Utah legislator seeks to limit abortion after 15 weeks

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J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, will sponsor HB136, which would limit abortions at 15 weeks in the upcoming 2019 Utah Legislative Session. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A West Jordan Republican is seeking to limit the window of time in which a woman may choose to have an abortion to 15 weeks in Utah.

“With the nation’s highest birth-rate, Utah should be the safest place in the country for women and children, born and unborn,” Rep. Cheryl Acton said in a news release.

Utah law currently limits abortion to the viability age of 20-22 weeks along with numerous states including Texas, Ohio and Mississippi. However, worldwide only seven out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute study which was widely cited in support of the 2017 US HR36 Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection act. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 638,169 legal abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2015.

Acton presented HB136 at a Capitol news conference Wednesday, Jan. 23, as a prelude to the work she said she hopes to accomplish at the 2019 legislative session, which begins Monday, Jan. 28.

The time frame in which Utah women are currently legally authorized to have an abortion is 20-22 weeks, the age of viability when the infant could potentially survive outside the womb. In 2016, Utah became the first state to require anesthesia for abortions conducted at or after 20 weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Acton cited the physical, psychological and emotional risks abortions pose for women and the “unconscionable” method used for second-trimester abortions.

“D&E abortion is unconscionable,” Acton said. “I believe if the people of Utah knew the mechanics of this procedure, they would demand that it be made unlawful in our state.”

Currently, most abortions conducted in the second trimester use a procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E), which involves crushing and dismembering the fetus in the womb until it dies from blood loss, after which the fetus’ body parts are extracted through the cervix, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

HB136 would preserve a woman’s right to having an abortion under circumstances where her life is at risk or in the case of rape or incest.

Acton cited the British Journal of Psychiatry, which finds an 81 percent increase in mental health issues among women who have undergone an abortion. The study also linked fertility issues including placenta previa and preterm birth to previous abortions.

Acton acknowledged that laws similar to HB136 have failed in other states, but said the bill differs because it is a “reasonable accommodation” for women who choose to have an abortion while still allowing critical exceptions for late-term abortions.

Visit le.utah.gov to learn more about bills scheduled for hearing during the upcoming 2019 legislative session.

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