Barron: Pass Abortion Bills that Help Women, Not Shame Them


Protestors demonstrate at the Capitol to advocate for stricter abortion laws in 2017 (Photo by Tom Denton | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Morgan Barron, Opinion Writer


Content Warning: This article discusses sexual violence and abortion. Reader discretion is advised.

When announcing S.B. 67, a proposed ban on disposing of fetal remains with other medical waste, Senator Curt Bramble explained how he, an advocate for deregulation, could endorse such a measure, “Treating the remains of [a] deceased child with dignity is an appropriate role for government.” Bramble’s emotionally-charged word choice is calculated political theater, and his legislation was designed to afford little dignity to those seeking abortions. “I would hope it makes a person choosing to have an abortion reflect on that they’re disposing of a human being, that this is not just medical waste,”  he said. S.B. 67 is Bramble’s attempt to impose his personal views on Utahns with little regard to how it will impact those seeking reproductive healthcare services.

This is not the first time Bramble has “[practiced] medicine without a medical license” on the Hill. He has sponsored several abortion bills that have been condemned by medical professionals nationwide, from requiring “fetal anesthesia” during abortion procedures to requiring doctors to share information on medically unproven “reversible” abortion procedures. Sadly, both of these specific bills were passed, highlighting a trend of Utah legislators putting their personal beliefs above Utahns’ medical needs and the advice of professionals. However, Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost is breaking from her peers by proposing H.B. 65, legislation that refreshingly focuses on helping women receive needed medical care instead of shaming them.

Dr. Felicia H. Stewart and Dr. James Trussell estimated in 2012 that there are 25,000 rape-related pregnancies each year in the United States. Pregnancy as a result of an assault is often re-traumatizing for survivors, as it can provide a constant physical reminder of the rape and may be reminiscent of the loss of bodily determination experienced during their attack. Indeed, researchers have found that women who are forced to carry their pregnancies to term after an assault experienced increased “depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and suicidality” compared to women who are able to terminate these pregnancies.

Unfortunately, assault survivors in Utah face obstacles when trying to obtain abortion services. One such obstacle requires a physician to verify that their patient has reported an assault to law enforcement prior to terminating a rape-related pregnancy. While the requirement may seem innocuous, only one out of every four sexual assaults is reported. Survivors may choose not to report an assault for many reasons, including fear of retaliation or a belief that the police will do nothing to help them. However, this should not prevent survivors from being able to obtain a safe, legal abortion if they need it. Focused on supporting survivors, H.B. 65 would remove this requirement and allow Utah doctors to freely serve vulnerable members of the community.

Based on how lawmakers have voted in previous sessions, H.B. 65 is unlikely to get out of a committee hearing, let alone pass. But Dailey-Provost ran the bill anyway, standing up to Bramble’s poorly masked moral policing and Senator Dan McCay’s promise to run legislation ending all elective abortions in Utah. H.B. 65 addresses a need in our community and fills a gap in our current abortion laws. Utahns across the state should reach out to their legislators to voice support for the bill — constituent voices can have incredible power on the Hill. However, these voices need to be strong enough to overcome the inflammatory language used by pro-life lobbyists and the personal opinions of prominent state officials.

Abortion has been strongly debated since very early in United States history. Every argument, for and against, has been published in prominent newspapers, spoken eloquently from podiums, chanted loudly by crowds and debated in front of the Supreme Court. This does not mean we should not continue to defend a woman’s right to self-determination, especially as increasingly strict anti-abortion bills are introduced by our state’s legislative body. If the legislature continues to enact laws focused on restricting abortion options and shaming those seeking such healthcare, sickening stories about forced pregnancies will become more prevalent in our community. Instead, the legislature needs to pass legislation like H.B. 65 that focuses on helping women obtain the safe, legal abortions they may need.


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