Utah Poised to Achieve Abortion Law Infamy

You marked it on your calendar ever since first hearing about it and have waited on tenterhooks until the fateful day in American history when Utah would sidestep South Dakota and become the very first state to institute a 72-hour waiting period for abortions. That day, Tuesday, is almost upon us.

On March 20, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R., in case you had some irrational doubts about it) signed HB461, a bill that requires women to endure a 72-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion. That law will take effect on Tuesday, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune, making Utah the only state to institute such an extensive waiting period after a U.S. district court judge blocked South Dakota's similar attempt. Though Planned Parenthood of Utah Director Karrie Galloway says that opponents of the new law haven't ruled out filing a lawsuit, she concedes that "the reality of doing a legal challenge is daunting - the cost and time, all of that."

If that doesn't make your heart sputter like a broken gas-powered lawn mower and leave your mouth feeling like it's been suckling D batteries for the last two hours, then consider some awful commentary from one of the bill's architects and sponsors, Rep. Steve Eliason (R., in case you forgot again), who sounded, on the eve of the law's statewide institution, as if he were gloating. With a healthy mix of self-righteous moralizing, Eliason called the law "a consumer-protection law," explaining that the 72-hour wait gives women the opportunity to process "all of the information that is given to them when facing a life-altering decision that somebody else is making money off of." That's right — we've just got to be on the lookout for those profiteering abortion barons. Eliason then talked about the waiting period in terms of legal waiting periods before (non-medical) procedures that can be undone, such as adopting a child, signing a mortgage, or, fingers crossed, getting married, adding with what I can only assume was a revolting sneer, "I've never known anybody who'd undone an abortion."

Fucking gross. Maybe that made you throw up a little, maybe you have a stronger stomach than I do, though, not to brag or anything, I rode the Sea Dragon at at Morey's Pier seven times in the summer of 2003 and my harness came unfastened at least twice. Other HB461 supporters went so far as to express disappointment that the recent string of social conservative legislation didn't go further. Sounding like a Yankees fan (and by that I mean evil and spoiled) who just can't deal with not sweeping everyone on the march to a World Series victory, Gayle Ruzicka, head of the Utah Eagle Forum, tempered her delight. "We did have a good year until the governor messed it up," Ruzicka said, referring, of course, to Gary Herbert's moment of sanity in vetoing a bill that would have allowed schools to drop sex ed altogether and required abstinence-only instruction for those that kept it.

Though Ruzicka claims that the law addresses all of Planned Parenthood's concerns, Galloway points out that the law doesn't designate anyone to oversee compliance or write specific rules. She says,

We're left with a system that right now puts the burden - in fact a possible criminal burden - on the physician providing the procedure with no verifiable process for confirming the informed consent.

Nan Streeter from the Utah Department of Health confirms that the new law gives her agency no oversight authority. According to Streeter, the Department of Health is really only responsible for the "development of abortion consent materials." She adds, "There's no provision for the department to either enforce or oversee the consent process." Eliason has something to say to that concern, though, and it's almost as horrible as the way he compared the abortion waiting period to the mortgage approval waiting period: "If they [opponents of the HB461] want more rules and regulations regarding putting the process in motion, I'm sure there are a lot of people willing to make the law more stringent than it is." Yes, I bet there are, Mr. Eliason, just as I bet there are people out there willing to replace all the contents of the shampoo and conditioner combo bucket you bought wholesale with Nair. That way, you can look just like the huge, conversant penis you are.

Utah to have nation's first 72-hour abortion waiting period [The Salt Lake Tribune]