Candace Gibson, University of Utah College of Law
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the blogger herself; she is not speaking on behalf of Law Students for Reproductive Justice or the U of U Law Students for Reproductive Justice.
The legislative session in Utah has, as usual, offered some bad and patriarchal legislation. Although Senator Osmond has dropped his “personhood” bill, both chambers will be sending some golden nuggets to each other. Unfortunately, given the lack of parity between Democrat and Republican representation in both chambers, these bills have a good chance of passage.
The first nugget is HB 363 which would allow schools to drop sex education classes altogether. The bill also prohibits schools that continue to teach sex ed from instructing students in “the use of contraceptive methods or devices.” Prior to this legislation, schools were allowed to emphasize abstinence as a method or teach abstinence only sex education. Furthermore, under Utah law, parents can take their kids out of sex education classes. What inspired this bill you may ask? The sponsor, Representative Wright, was appalled that some schools were using a Planned Parenthood maturation program for fifth and sixth graders. (Of course the bill isn’t another way to discredit Planned Parenthood but it’s about stopping the brainwashing of kids to have sex whenever they want). Not only does the ACLU and Planned Parenthood oppose this bill but so does the Utah PTA. I’m thinking when parents are telling you that this is bad news for their kids you probably should listen to them.
The bill is not only comedic but disturbing because it comes on the heels of a report from the Centers for Disease Control saying that half of Utah teens who became accidentally pregnant were not using birth control. The reasons why they weren’t using birth control were pretty unique among the nation. These included: obstacles to obtaining birth control, the belief that they couldn’t get pregnant at the time, and the belief that they or their partners were sterile at the time of the sexual encounter. Rep. Wright’s legislation is irresponsible to say the least when you have data demonstrating the need for more information and access to birth control. However, from my personal experience on the Utah Hill, data does not influence the majority of these law makers.
The second nugget is Senate Joint Resolution 21 which recognizes the “valuable” contributions of pregnancy care centers. Although the resolution has no legal ramifications, the text of the resolution includes this lovely phrase, “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah expresses disapproval of the actions of any national, state, or local groups attempting to prevent pregnancy care centers from effectively serving women and men in relation to unplanned pregnancies.” Maybe this is code for saying that we disagree with lawsuits against pregnancy care centers that affirmatively misinform women about the services they provide. As of now, it’s still in the Senate.
The third nugget is another bill aimed at extending the waiting period for an abortion in Utah. Currently, it’s 24 hours but HB 461 would push it to 72 hours. Unfortunately, the bill passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and I am certain it will make it to the Senate. If it does pass the Senate, Utah will be tied with South Dakota for having the longest waiting period in the nation. That’s something to be proud of, right?
There are only two weeks left in the Utah session. I know that there are some who will do their best to persuade legislators about the grave social risks which will be amplified due to these bills. At the same time, I’m unsure if these legislators are willing to listen.