Utah Bill Would Curb Tax-Funded Abortions

Source: Deseret News; February 3, 2003

Salt Lake City, UT -- Legislation introduced in Utah Monday would ban all state tax dollars going to abortions except in cases where the mother's life is threatened.

The measure is the second pro-life bill in the 2003 session, where observers say the increasingly pro-life makeup of the Legislature may increase the bills' chances of passage.

Gayle Ruzicka, head of Utah Eagle Forum, says now is the time to prohibit all state funds for abortion, even if that means giving up some federal welfare or health dollars.

Rep. Morgan Philpot, R-Sandy, said he is sponsoring HB123, because he and his wife had their first child in November and he wanted to do what he could to keep state government out of the abortion business.

Several other states have tried to limit the operations of groups, such as Planned Parenthood, that Philpot said go too far in their counseling "to push the abortion."

Ruzicka said she has heard that in a few instances the state's victim restitution fund was used to pay for abortions for victims of rape or incest. That would be one loophole the bill would close, she said. The bill would have some financial impact on the state Department of Health's Medicaid program. The state is required -- in order to access funds from the joint state-federal insurance program for the poor -- to pay for abortions if the pregnancy was the result of a rape, incest or threatens the life of the mother.

Philpot's bill would in effect eliminate abortions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. But because the state is required under Medicaid to pay to abort such pregnancies, the new law would be pre-empted and the state would be required to continue to fund them to continue to access Medicaid dollars, said Doug Springmier, assistant attorney general who represents the health department.

There are few such abortions performed and they are done only after a number of criteria and certifications are met, he said.

"We exempt the cases where the woman 'will' give up her life if she has the baby. That is an exception we believe must be made, for self preservation. But it's the only one," said Ruzicka. If Utah would lose any federal Medicaid or other funds because of the bill, that would be OK, she added. "We shouldn't take the money if it means we kill babies," said Ruzicka.

Philpot said he, too, doesn't know the fiscal impact, but he is going forward anyway. Those issues will be addressed as hearings provide more information, he said.

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