Female senators in Utah walk out as abortion bill passes

The six women lawmakers — two Republicans and four Democrats — refused to vote Wednesday on a bill mandating a woman be shown an ultrasound before receiving an abortion.
The Utah Capitol, in Salt lake City on Jan. 27, 2020.
The Utah Capitol, in Salt lake City on Jan. 27, 2020.Rick Bowmer / AP file

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — All six women in the Utah Senate walked out in protest and refused to vote on a bill mandating a woman be shown an ultrasound before receiving an abortion. The bill passed despite their absence.

Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson said in a statement the walkout late Tuesday was not planned, but rather a spontaneous decision to underscore their concerns about “the invasive nature of the bill.”

The six women lawmakers — two Republicans and four Democrats — would not have changed the outcome. Five Republican men voted against the bill, but it passed 16-7.

Henderson said she opposed abortion, but said the ultrasound bill goes too far.

It would require showing a woman images and making the fetal heartbeat audible, if possible. Women now get an ultrasound before the procedure, but providers aren’t required to show them the results. Doctors could be subject to fines of $100,000 or more if they perform the procedure without showing an ultrasound.

Republican Sen. Curtis Bramble, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, said a woman could look away from the images, or not listen to the heartbeat.

“If you are going to take the life of a child, if you are willing to terminate that life through an abortion, it seems appropriate that you get the best information about the development, the stage of development, heartbeat — we are talking about a human being,” Bramble told the Deseret News.

Before the vote, Henderson successfully added an amendment prohibiting a transvaginal ultrasound, a procedure she called “incredibly invasive.”

The bill now returns to the House to approve that amendment. Three medical organizations have asked Republican Gov. Gary Herbert to veto the proposed ultrasound mandate, and a fourth has taken a neutral position, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Sen. Karen Mayne said she was sad that women had to tell their own life stories as they spoke against the bill, and yet their male colleagues didn't appear to believe the proposal was too invasive.

“Why do we have to explain to you why this is not right? Why?” she said.

CORRECTION (March 12, 2020, 9 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated when the walkout happened. It was Tuesday, not Wednesday.