High-risk pregnancy specialist shares concerns about Utah’s new trigger law

Jul 8, 2022, 6:28 PM | Updated: 8:15 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Utah physicians are coming together to push for language changes in Utah’s new trigger law.

The law was temporarily blocked for two weeks by a Third District Judge responding to a request from Planned Parenthood. Lawyers on both sides will present their arguments Monday.

Yet, even during this pause, a Utah doctor said she’s already seen a change in care.

Dr. Lexi Eller is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist for high-risk pregnancies. She came to Utah 16 years ago to train for the position and has been in the state ever since.

“I never left because I fell in love with the place and the people,” Eller said.

Her love and care for patients haven’t changed, but Eller worries that Utah’s new trigger law will change the level of care she can give.

“It’s very hard to create black and white situations,” she said. “Medicine is not a ‘yes,’ ‘no’ — you don’t always die or don’t die — you can’t always quantify risk in that way.”

It’s particularly complex for doctors dealing with high-risk situations either for the child or the mother.

Eller said about 97% of abortions happen before 12 weeks of gestation, but in her line of work, she deals with the rare situations often found in the other three percent.

“Those women who are later in their pregnancy and facing these very difficult choices are the women that we care for,” Eller said. “When laws place arbitrary, gestational age limits, they particularly target the most vulnerable women.”

It’s the most vulnerable that suffer from differences in medical and legislative terminology, something Eller said happened with Utah’s new law.

Words like “substantial and irreversible risk” leave physicians wondering what level of care they should give.

“What is substantial? It’s impossible for us to put numbers on these conditions,” Eller said. “So it’s impossible for anyone to legislate a number either because we don’t know how to meet that legal standard.”

Even the definition of abortion, Eller said, is different legally versus medically.

“The truth is that every OBGYN in some way is an abortion provider,” Eller said. “If a woman is facing life-threatening risk at some stage of pregnancy, they are often in a position to end that pregnancy to preserve her health or life.”

The new trigger law also requires victims of rape and sexual assault to have verifiable reports with law enforcement before having an abortion.

“This relationship between a pregnant person and her physician is a sacred space,” Eller said. “Patients will often talk with us and share with us things that they would never go to law enforcement about.”

Mixed in with these legal ambiguities, Eller said the new Utah trigger law also puts physicians in a tight position between adhering to their “standard of care,” which they were trained to practice, or the law.

“You’re being forced, in some ways, to put yourself at legal liability no matter what you do,” Eller said.

The consequences, in Eller’s perspective, come down to malpractice for ignoring the standard of care or a felony charge for not following Utah’s trigger law.

“These laws are dangerous on so many levels, and they really inhibit providers from wanting to even practice medicine in our state,” she said.

While hoping to change the language within the law itself, Eller said a group of Utah doctors is also hoping to focus efforts on reducing unwanted pregnancies.

“We wish that lawmakers could understand that this is about a physician and a patient relationship, and leaving healthcare to physicians is the right answer,” Eller said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

(KSL TV)...
Alex Cabrero

Speedskaters prepare for 2026 Olympics

There is dedication and preparation in almost any career. Then there is Olympic dedication and preparation. For Olympians who want to be the best, it takes years to shave off a second or two. At the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are already a memory. It’s back to hours upon […]
1 day ago
Ladd Egan

Road To Zero Fatalities: Male Versus Female Drivers

An analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that during nearly every year since 1975 to 2020 the number of U.S. men killed in crashes was more than twice that of women.
1 day ago
Bryce Canyon Nation Park (NPS)...
Ladd Egan

‘We don’t have the crowds:’ Tourism officials say Bryce Canyon needs more visitors

When Utah’s other “Mighty Five” national parks experienced record crowds last year, Bryce Canyon did not. And so far this year the park has seen declining visitation.
1 day ago
One of the vandalized churches in Sandy. (Sandy Police Department)...
Mike Anderson

Several churches vandalized in Sandy and Orem

SANDY, Utah —Police are searching for vandals who hit a number of buildings that belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of the attacks happened over the same night along the east side of Sandy. The vandals spray-painted messages on the outside of six buildings. “No break-ins. Doesn’t even appear that […]
1 day ago
Shelby Lofton

Utah School for the Deaf makes history with new football team

Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind has a new, eight person co-ed football team.
1 day ago
Signs left by abortion-rights supporters line the security fence surrounding The Supreme Court on J...
REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

Medical groups, 20 states weigh in on Idaho abortion lawsuit

Medical groups and states across the U.S. are watching as a legal battle over abortion rights pits the deep-red state of Idaho against the Department of Justice.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
High-risk pregnancy specialist shares concerns about Utah’s new trigger law