Utah Legislature Passes Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

Feb 28, 2019, 3:05 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:15 pm
Capitol in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Silas Walker, Deseret News)...
Capitol in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Silas Walker, Deseret News)
(Photo: Silas Walker, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — A proposed ban on abortions sought only because a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome passed the Utah Legislature on Thursday, sending the measure to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.

The legislation that easily cleared a final vote in the state Senate contains a so-called trigger clause, and would only go into effect if a similar law is upheld in court elsewhere. The provision was added to address criticism that it is likely unconstitutional and could embroil the state in an expensive lawsuit.

Herbert, a Republican, said it removes some risk of a legal fight, but he’s not yet sure if the proposal is constitutional. He said it was “somewhat of a message bill” aimed at telling people that aborting a fetus for due to a Down syndrome diagnosis is “probably not a good reason.”

North Dakota has a law prohibiting abortion for genetic anomaly, including Down syndrome. Similar laws in Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio have been blocked by courts. Arkansas and Kentucky are considering measures this year.

Planned Parenthood of Utah President and CEO Karrie Galloway said she’s disappointed the Utah measure passed, but does not expect it to go into effect because she believes other similar laws won’t succeed in court challenges.

This is Republican sponsor Rep. Karianne Lisonbee’s second attempt to pass the bill, which stalled in the House last year.

Herbert declined to say whether he would sign the legislation, but added that he’s generally a “pro-life guy.”

The proposal is one of two abortion bills under consideration in Utah. Another to ban abortion after 18 weeks of gestation has passed the Utah House of Representatives.

Conservative states around the country are considering strong abortion restrictions this year amid optimism about the reconfiguring of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.

They have included so-called trigger bans on abortion if Roe v. Wade falls and bills banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.

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Utah Legislature Passes Down Syndrome Abortion Ban