Conferences pull out of Utah in protest of abortion and transgender sports bans

Jul 28, 2022, 3:06 PM | Updated: 10:37 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – One research organization is scrapping its plan to hold a conference in Salt Lake City later this year, citing a pair of “discriminatory” Utah laws banning most abortions and barring transgender girls from school sports.  

Another scientific group wasn’t planning to touch down in Utah until 2028, but that won’t happen because of Utah’s prohibition on abortion, according to Salt Lake tourism officials.  

The Boston-based Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) and the American Society of Human Genetics, headquartered in Maryland, are the first to make headlines for canceling their Utah gatherings following the moves by the state’s Republican-dominated state Legislature.   

PRIM&R is moving its yearly convention online instead of coming to Utah’s capital city in November, the organization’s executive director announced Tuesday.  Elisa A. Hurley called the Utah policies “discriminatory and antithetical” to the group’s values in a letter posted online.   

Hurley told KSL her concerns go beyond politics.  

“Our central concern is ethics, equity and justice in health and medicine,” Hurley said. “And from our perspective, abortion access and supporting transgender youth are squarely concerns within that.” 

The conference, which was to be the group’s first in Utah, was originally scheduled for Nov. 14-18 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City. It was expected to draw 2,400 attendees, said Karen Boe, vice president of communications and public relations for the tourism agency Visit Salt Lake.  

The American Society of Human Genetics was scheduled to bring in 7,300 visitors in October 2028, Boe said. The group did not return messages late Thursday, but Boe said it decided to cancel the event because of Utah’s prohibition on abortions.  

The average Salt Lake conference goer spends $971, according to surveys conducted by the University of Utah’s Kem. C. Gardner Policy Institute. By that estimate, the events together would have brought in $9.4 million in today’s money.  

State Senate President Stuart Adams suggested he’s not concerned about the loss in revenue. Utah’s economy is in good shape, and other organizations are still holding their events in Utah, Adams, R-Layton, said Thursday. 

“While I disagree with the tactics of boycotting, our economy remains strong, and we will continue to pass policies that are in the best interest of all Utahns,” Adams said in a statement.  

Utah’s trigger law banning most abortions went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned R Roe v. Wade in June, ending the federal constitutional right to an abortion. 

The state law makes exceptions including for rape, incest and “medical emergencies” that meet certain criteria. It’s on pause while a lawsuit plays out in court in Salt Lake City. 

A different Utah measure prohibiting transgender girls from competing in school sports took effect earlier this month; It’s also the subject of litigation.   

For PRIM&R, Utah wasn’t the only state to inform the change in plans.   

California’s ban on state-funded travel to Utah and other places with policies deemed anti-LGBT also factored into the group’s decision, because it “further erodes” the group’s ability to gather in Salt Lake City, according to Hurley.  

Before the new Utah laws took effect, COVID-19 dealt a blow to Salt Lake’s convention and tourism industries.  

The first year of the pandemic led to cancellations racking up $360 million in losses. In 2020, conferences and events that did take place brought in roughly 184,000 people and about $80.5 million in spending, according to Visit Salt Lake.    

Utah’s Office of Tourism hopes the research group will return to the state in the future, said spokeswoman Anna Loughridge.   

The agency is “dedicated to elevating the visitor and community experience in Utah through responsible tourism stewardship,” Loughridge said in a statement. “We remain committed to that goal and believe travel has the power to inform, inspire and unite.”   

But Hurley indicated it’s unlikely her group will book an event in Utah anytime soon. She said it’s important for conference goers to feel welcome wherever an event is held.  

“This has been an occasion for us to really reaffirm what our principles are for choosing conference locations,” Hurley said.    


KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Matt Gephardt being shown the double payments that Terry Hutchings has been getting....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt helps homeowner being charged two bills for one security system

Billing for a previous home initially stopped when she sold it, but when she got a new security system from the same provider for her new place a year later it started billing for both

6 hours ago

The Utah State Hospital sign in Provo, Utah....

Daniel Woodruff

A developer has big plans for the Utah State Hospital property

The latest effort to move the Utah State Hospital for a new development plan has failed this legislative session.

6 hours ago

Utah County residents vote in-person during the 2020 General Election on Nov. 3, 2020. (KSL-TV)...

Daniel Woodruff

Utah Senate rejects effort to end ranked choice voting early

Utah’s experiment with ranked choice voting will continue after a bill that would have ended the pilot program two years early failed to pass.

7 hours ago

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced February 29 that Heritage Store Hydrogen Peroxide ...

John Towfighi, CNN

Mouthwash recalled nationwide over poisoning risk

One brand of hydrogen peroxide mouthwash is being recalled nationwide for posing a potential poisoning risk for children.

9 hours ago

Comiske riding her stationary bike, something she does every morning....

Emma Benson

Strategies to lengthen your life

The CDC says, on average, women tend to live 5-7 years longer than men because men higher rate of cardiovascular disease, but there are simple, healthy ways to increase your life expectancy.

10 hours ago

A mother holding a newborn in a hospital bed...

Shelby Lofton

Utah family chooses Leap Day for their daughter’s birthday

A Utah family celebrated the birth of their new baby girl who was born on a day that only comes every four years.

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Conferences pull out of Utah in protest of abortion and transgender sports bans