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Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals to pay for out-of-state abortions for employees

Mar 14, 2023, 12:48 PM | Updated: 12:49 pm

FILE: General view of Rio Tinto Stadium before the Seattle Sounders play Real Salt Lake on March 12...

FILE: General view of Rio Tinto Stadium before the Seattle Sounders play Real Salt Lake on March 12, 2016 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SANDY, Utah — The Utah Royals will bring professional women’s soccer back to Utah in 2024, and has promised to help cover costs of getting out-of-state abortion care for all club employees.

The policy applies to employees for the Royals and Real Salt Lake, both of which are owned by Utah Soccer LLC.

“For all employees enrolled in our benefits plan, we have had a policy in place where if there is a medical procedure that is not provided in the state of Utah, we will provide a reimbursement of up to $4,000 toward travel and lodging costs,” a club spokesman said in a statement to KSL.com.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer, National Women’s Soccer League officials said reproductive rights would be considered in future expansion discussions.

“It’s something that we look at not only for expansion teams, but for our incumbent teams. And we have various markets where women’s health and medical rights and resources are compromised and limited that it’s our responsibility at the league office to the extent permitted by law to provide tools and resources for our players to have their medical needs met,” Commissioner Jessica Berman said Saturday.

“We have those safety nets and systems in place through the league office where players can have their medical needs addressed even if they have to leave the market and we are here to support them to the extent that’s necessary. And we know that the ownership group here is aligned to ensure that that’s the case,” she said.

Utah Jazz owner and Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith is a part-owner of RSL and the Royals.

Utah has a near-total abortion ban on the books, but that law is on hold while the Utah Supreme Court considers its constitutionality. That so-called “trigger ban” has exemptions for cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s life is in danger or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

The Utah Legislature recently passed a bill that could effectively ban abortion clinics in the state after May 2, and require even legal abortions be performed in hospital settings. Critics of the bill say it would put abortion care out of reach for many low-income Utahns, and — if hospitals decide not to provide legal abortions based on religious or moral grounds — it could limit care for victims of rape or women who suffer life-threatening pregnancy complications.

Gov. Spencer Cox is expected to sign that bill into law in the coming weeks.

Abortion is currently legal in Utah through 18 weeks of pregnancy, while the trigger ban is held up in court.

The nearest out-of-state abortion providers are located in Durango and Glenwood Springs, Colorado, after a proposed Planned Parenthood clinic in West Wendover, Nevada, was stalled by the City Council. Colorado is protective of abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and has a law to shield abortion providers from investigations by other states.

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Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals to pay for out-of-state abortions for employees