Utah Republicans Plan to Defund Planned Parenthood, Restrict Abortion Access in 2016

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Utah Republicans Plan to Defund Planned Parenthood, Restrict Abortion Access in 2016

Nicole Knight

Republican lawmakers announced the proposed anti-choice measures at the state capitol, flanked by opponents of abortion rights in a press conference organized by the Utah Pro-Life Coalition.

Two Utah Republicans have set reproductive health in their crosshairs, announcing Wednesday that they will introduce bills in 2016 to strip Planned Parenthood of funding and outlaw certain abortion procedures based on scientifically dubious findings.

Sen. Margaret Dayton (R-Orem) said her measure would bar organizations that “promote or provide abortions” from receiving federal or state funds, as the Deseret News reported. Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo) said in an interview with Rewire on Thursday that his bill would “prohibit abortion after the point of development where the unborn child experiences pain.”

The Utah lawmakers’ proposals come three months after Republican Gov. Gary Herbert ordered the state health department to halt funding of Planned Parenthood’s Utah affiliates.

In October, following Planned Parenthood’s challenge of the governor’s August order, a federal district court judge extended a temporary injunction to keep funding in place through the end of 2015. A final decision is expected by December 31.

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Documents from the Utah governor indicated the health-care provider received $222,058 in 2015, federal money that went to STD screening and education, sexual education curriculum, and pregnancy tests for victims of rape and sexual assault. Planned Parenthood officials confirmed they receive no direct state funds.

The lawmakers announced the proposed anti-choice measures at the state capitol, flanked by opponents of abortion rights in a press conference organized by the Utah Pro-Life Coalition.

Planned Parenthood Association of Utah CEO Karrie Galloway called the measures a political ploy to score points at the expense of Utah residents.

“The majority of voters nationwide, including 62 percent of Republicans, say that attempting to end safe and legal abortion before the point of viability is the wrong issue for state legislatures to be spending their time on,” Galloway said in a statement.

In a phone interview with Rewire, Bramble said the ban would use National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) copycat legislation on “pain-capable” abortion as a starting point. Details, he said, would be forthcoming following research on legislation that would pass judicial muster.

Thirteen states have enacted bans on abortion after 20 weeks, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America. The NRLC has spurred the abortion restrictions. Federal and state courts have consistently found 20-week abortion prohibitions unconstitutional, with Arizona becoming the latest state to see its anti-choice law struck down.

“Simply saying 20 weeks doesn’t meet the standard,” Bramble said of court challenges to the legislative bans.

Although lawmakers have cited “fetal pain” in backing the prohibitions, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has found no scientific basis for the claim of fetal pain before the third trimester.

The measures are the latest salvo by Republicans in Utah and elsewhere to strip Planned Parenthood of taxpayer dollars following the release of heavily edited videos claiming to show its affiliates trafficking in fetal tissue. Eight state investigations into Planned Parenthood have found no evidence of wrongdoing, and the attack videos produced by the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress have been widely discredited.

The videos have become a cudgel in a sweeping attack on reproductive rights for Republican lawmakers.

“If we could run a bill that would repeal Roe v. Wade, we would,” Bramble reportedly said on Wednesday. “There is a compelling state interest in protecting the vulnerable among us.”