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BANGERTER SAYS THE TIME ISN’T RIGHT FOR AN ABORTION BILL

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Gov. Norm Bangerter says no abortion bills should be introduced in next month's Legislature, the time just isn't right to deal with the controversial issue since Utah already controls abortion as allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But at least one abortion bill will be introduced, says Rep. R. Mont Evans. And he'll do it. Evans, R-Riverton, says he will introduce a bill that "mirrors the recent U.S. Supreme Court's Webster decision."Evans doesn't want to take Utah beyond that decision, saying the state can't afford to fight a protracted, costly legal battle in the federal courts.

But, he adds, other legislators may introduce a tougher bill that would be challenged in the courts.

Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's chief of staff, says there's no need for any abortion bill to be filed in the Legislature next month. He says the governor gives three reasons to wait:

- Utah law and practice already is as restrictive, in some cases stricter, than the Webster decision, so nothing is gained by codifying it.

- A number of states already have passed laws stricter than Webster and those laws are in the federal court pipeline, headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, Utah would only be wasting money by starting late.

- It's clear that the high court is moving toward overturning Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion. When that happens, Utah then will have a meaningful opportunity to restrict the practice, perhaps in the 1991 or 1992 legislative sessions.

"Why put us through the emotional, divisive issue year after year so someone - in this case Rep. Evans - can make some political points with some constituents?" Scruggs said.

"The governor doesn't want to do it and we believe most legislators will agree."

Scruggs adds that Bangerter wants Roe vs. Wade overturned and then wants to outlaw abortions except in cases where the mother's life is in danger and in cases of rape and incest.

Evans says his bill will closely follow the Webster decision: outlaw the use of state funds and facilities for abortions and stop any physician who gets all or part of his pay in state taxpayer dollars from preforming abortions.

The bill also will include a preamble affirming the sanctity of life at conception, which also was approved by the high court last summer. "And my bill will also clarify the definition of viability of the fetus," Evans said.

He agrees with Bangerter's analysis that Utah's current abortion laws and practices already conform to the Supreme Court's ruling. "Although I've gotten mixed messages on whether there are abortions conducted at the University of Utah Hospital" - a public hospital.

If his bill passes, Evans says there will be the possibility that by closely defining fetus viability at 24 weeks from conception, plus or minus four weeks, some women who wait longer than five months to seek an abortion may be denied the chance.

He says he's introducing his bill in part because he's promised to do so. "But also because the leaders and legislators of this state should step forward on this issue and let their feelings be known, no matter what the consequences," Evans said.

Ninety percent or more of the abortions conducted in Utah are done in a private Salt Lake clinic, paid for by the patient or patient's insurance, state officials say. The state doesn't allocate any funds for abortions.