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Good Information Is Critical to Exercising Reproductive Rights

03 February 2017 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

Without actual access and factual information, our ability to exercise our reproductive freedoms becomes much less meaningful. Screen Shot 2017 02 03 at 2.58.47 PM

UPDATES: HB57 and HB215 both died early in the session, without much opportunity for discussion and debate, much to the disappointment of many ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Utah Women Unite, Utah Action and other supporters. HB141 did pass through the legislature and is awaiting Governor Herbert's signature; language modifications to this bill made it much less objectionable in its final version. Activists, advocates and concerned community members were successful in pushing to remove the anti-choice language from HB154! The bill passed, but as an actual tele-health bill, rather than an under-handed anti-choice bill.

The ACLU of Utah is following four different bills – so far! – related to Utahns’ ability to realize their right to make fully informed decisions about where and how to start a family.

We’ve previously mentioned HB57, “Reproductive Health and Medicaid Funding,” sponsored by Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake). This excellent bill would allow Utah agencies to access federal funding to support access to family planning and contraception resources for low-income Utahns.

We’ve also previously discussed – and excoriated – HB141, misleadingly named “Unborn Child Protection Amendments” and sponsored by Rep. Keven Stratton (R-Provo). This terrible bill would require Utah doctors to give women seeking a medical abortion incorrect information about the “reversibility” of this medical prescription.

And now, as we head into the third week of the Legislative Session, we’ve got a couple more reproductive freedom bills to share with you.

Let’s start off with the good news first: we’ve got another great bill from Rep. Brian King!

HB215, “Reproductive Health Education and Services,” aims to vastly improve the information provided to Utah public school students who opt-in to health courses that include information about reproductive health and safety. The bill clearly states that information about reproductive health would need to be evidence-based, factually accurate, and focused on developing healthy, respectful relationships.

This bill is just beginning its journey through the legislative process; we expect a committee hearing sometime during the third week of the session.

The ACLU of Utah supports this effort because we know its hard to exercise your reproductive rights when your access to factual, judgment-free information is severely restricted. We believe this effort by Rep. King will assist young people and their families in protecting their health and thoughtfully planning their future families.

HB154, “Telehealth Amendments,” on the other hand, could actually restrict access to reproductive health information and options. This otherwise perfectly fine bill, which is largely aimed at expanding telemedicine services statewide, could save many Utahns time and money.

However…the bill includes an unfortunate provision, right at the end of the drafted language, that says:

“A practitioner treating a patient through telehealth services, as described in Title Chapter 59, Telehealth Act, may not issue a prescription through electronic prescribing for a drug or treatment to cause an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother would be endangered without an abortion.”

These lines of legislative language (lines 349-352) would prevent especially women living in rural areas of the state, from accessing abortion services in the very early stages of pregnancy via telemedicine. This barrier may push women into later months of pregnancy, requiring more invasive procedures to terminate a pregnancy in the case of a serious fetal abnormality, for example.

This bill, despite a vigorous discussion over the offending lines and a proposed amendment by Rep. Patrice Arent (D-Salt Lake) to remove those lines, passed favorably out of the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology on January 30.

The next stop for this bill is the House Floor. A vote could happen in the third week of the session. We strongly urge you to contact your legislator and ask her/him to support amendments to remove this anti-choice language. If lines 349-352 are not removed, this bill must be opposed.