The Utah State Senate approved the final version of the HB476 bill on March 3. When it passed, Governor Cox shared that he intended to approve the bill. On March 15, he signed the bill into law. The bill includes regulation on abortions within the state of Utah and has a significant portion clarifying abortion terminology and stipulations found within Utah’s abortion trigger law.
In March 2020, Utah passed Senate Bill 174, which was to be enacted if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Shortly after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Utah judge Andrew Stone placed a 14-day moratorium on the law, which he extended until lawsuits related to the bill were resolved.
Various technicalities and administrative issues in the trigger law have concerned Utah doctors. The bill mandates that any legal abortion, as defined in the trigger law, must be performed in a hospital “unless it is necessary to perform the abortion in another location due to a medical emergency.” The bill also clarifies that girls 14 or younger can receive an abortion because they are below the age of consent. An exception for rape is only permissible if the unborn child is under 18 weeks of gestational age.
An exception for abortion if the pregnant woman is facing a medical emergency is also added. Previous drafts of the bill left the determination of a medical emergency up to the doctor’s discretion, but the final draft is more specific. A medical emergency is defined as a life-threatening situation caused or “aggravated by” pregnancy that poses a risk of death or “substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”
Over time, the bill will end the presence of abortion clinics in Utah. For current abortion clinics, the bill requires that health, safety, sanitation, and recordkeeping standards are met at all abortion clinics. Starting May 2, 2023, licenses for abortion clinics will no longer be issued in Utah. After that date, an abortion clinic cannot renew its license, and as of January 1, 2024, all abortion clinics will no longer be permitted to operate in the state of Utah. If the abortion clinic’s license expires after January 1, 2024, the clinic can continue to operate until its license expires. Additionally, after the clinics’ licenses expire, all legal abortions must be performed in a hospital.
This bill does nothing to stop facilities currently operating as abortion clinics from offering other pregnancy-related services.
Written by: Reagan Sumrall
Senior Contributor at The Cougar Chronicle
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints