Utah House passes new requirements for abortion providers

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Abortion clinics would be required to cremate fetal remains and women would have to get an ultrasound before the procedure under proposals that passed the Utah House this week, over objections that the new rules would erode access to abortion.

The ultrasound bill would require a technician to display images and make the fetal heartbeat audible for each woman. Republican sponsor Rep. Steve Christiansen said those steps could make a woman choose not to have an abortion.

“When a woman sees live video of the baby that’s within her womb and hears a heartbeat … logic would say that many women are going to choose life,” he said Thursday. His proposal is modeled after a similar law in Kentucky that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand in December.

The Utah bill states a woman can look away or ask the volume of the heartbeat be turned down, but physicians who perform an abortion without an ultrasound could face fines starting at up to $100,000.

It passed the Utah House on Thursday over the objections of Democrats like Rep. Suzanne Harrison, who said it would force doctors to “perform completely unnecessary tests, which, actually in this case, can potentially increase harm to the fetus.” It now moves to the Senate.

Also this week, the Republican-dominated House passed a separate bill that would require abortion providers to cremate fetal remains, or bury them if the woman chooses. Supporters say the requirements would ensure the remains get more dignified treatment, but opponents argue they’re aimed at making it harder to have an abortion. Similar bills have been proposed in several other states.

The proposal would originally have created similar requirements for remains after miscarriages. But lawmakers on Wednesday voted to allow facilities to dispose of those along with other biological waste, unless a woman asks for another method.

That proposal now moves to the Utah Senate, which has already approved the original bill but now needs to concur with the changes regarding miscarriages.

Lawmakers are also considering another proposal to ban abortions completely, with exceptions for rape and serious risk to the health of the mother. If passed, that plan would only go into effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion.

Abortion opponents around the country are hopeful new conservatives on the Supreme Court would reconsider the 1974 ruling. Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortions last year, and several states passed bans after a heartbeat is detected, around six weeks. None have gone into effect.

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