Come Tuesday, Utah will become the only state in the nation with a law requiring a woman to wait 72 hours for an abortion.
“For some people that may be a point of celebration,” said Planned Parenthood of Utah Director Karrie Galloway. “For others it may be a point of heartache.”
HB461 is one of 331 laws passed by the 2012 Legislature that kick in Tuesday — and for some it is the most controversial.
South Dakota was the first state to pass a 72-hour waiting period, but that law, which includes a requirement that a woman receive counseling at an anti-abortion clinic, was blocked by a court challenge before it ever took effect. No other state requires a waiting period of more than 24 hours.
Opponents of Utah’s law haven’t ruled out a lawsuit but “the reality of doing a legal challenge is daunting — the cost and time, all of that,” Galloway said. “We will be looking at it to see how it affects people, how it affects our providers as well as women.”
Sponsoring Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, believes the concerns are misplaced.
“I think it’s a positive change for women and children,” said Eliason. “At the end of the day, it’s a consumer-protection law.
“The focus of this bill is women having time to consider all of the information that is given to them when facing a life-altering decision that somebody else is making money off of,” he said.
Eliason compared it to a cancer patient receiving all the relevant information before beginning treatment. And he pointed to legal waiting periods already in force for such things as adoptions, mortgage approval, marriage and divorce — all of which can be undone.
“I’ve never known anybody who’s undone an abortion,” Eliason said.
Gayle Ruzicka, head of the Utah Eagle Forum, is among those who will be in a celebratory mood Tuesday.
She counts the new abortion law as a victory, along with a new law, HB316, that requires a 90-day waiting period to obtain a divorce.
“We did have a good year until the governor messed it up,” Ruzicka said, pointing to Gov. Gary Herbert’s veto of HB363, which would have allowed school districts to drop sex education and required abstinence-only instruction for those who kept it.
Ruzicka said Utah’s abortion legislation is sound.