Utah Republicans seek to take abortion restrictions to the next level

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The state GOP's proposed new platform would remove protections for pregnant people whose lives are at risk.

As people wait to see how the Supreme Court will rule on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban, conservative legislatures are wasting no time proposing or passing abortion restrictions. One of the newest — and worst — of these abortion bans has been proposed in Utah. There, the state GOP is considering altering a plank in their party platform to eliminate any exceptions to abortion bans, including an exception to save the pregnant person's life. 

The current plank of the Utah GOP platform reads, "We strongly oppose abortion, except to preserve the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest." The proposed change would change the language to "We strongly oppose abortion and encourage adoption."

As Rewire News noted, the language Republicans are using about this proposed change is quite appalling. One of the proposal's backers explained that "We don't need to talk about rape or incest. That almost sounded like a permission slip to go get an abortion if this happens."

The fixation on adoption as a "solution" for abortion recently gained some traction when Justice Amy Coney Barrett brought it up during the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson, the case about Mississippi's 15-week ban. There, Barrett touted the benefits of "safe haven" laws, which exist in all 50 states and allow parents to leave a newborn at a safe location such as a hospital or fire department and face no child abandonment or other criminal charges to do so.

Barrett asked the abortion clinic's attorney about their brief and the brief of several amici supporting the clinic:

"Both Roe and Casey emphasize the burdens of parenting, and insofar as you and many of your amici focus on the ways in which forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities, it’s also focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy. Why don't the safe haven laws take care of that problem?"

This approach ignores that the safe haven laws are very rarely used and that most people who end up having a child because they were denied an abortion do not choose to give the child up for adoption. It further ignores that being pregnant is medically dangerous for many people. Maternal mortality has been on the rise in the United States for two decades. Utah's maternal mortality rate is also sharply higher than the U.S. average.

Sadly, this restrictive approach is nothing new, although Utah Republicans have taken it further than other states. In the last three years, 10 states passed abortion restrictions that did not include exceptions for rape or incest. The courts have blocked each of these restrictions for unrelated reasons, save for Texas. SB8, Texas' six-week abortion ban that allows for bounty hunter-style private enforcement of the law, has no carveouts for victims of incest or rape. Now, other states are moving forward with these restrictions.

In March, Arizona passed a fifteen-week ban and it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. That law contains no exceptions for rape or incest. However, the law isn't in effect yet, as Arizona's laws typically don't go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session. Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also signed a fifteen-week ban that also contains no exceptions for rape or incest.

With this landscape, it isn't surprising that Utah Republicans want to take things to the next level. It's the logical outcome of a mindset that treats pregnant people as mere vessels and, with a Supreme Court that has tipped its hand, it's the likely future facing the rest of the country.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.