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Therapy bill put on hold for a year

Holding's on hold at least for a year.

The controversial child behavior therapy will keep getting attention from lawmakers, but it can still be offered in Utah after two bills addressing it failed to emerge from the Senate the last day of the session.

"I guess they wanted to protect Parley's feelings more than they wanted to protect children," said a disgruntled Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Orem, referring to a competing bill proposed by Sen. Parley Hellewell, R-Orem, who urged fellow senators to keep Thompson's bill hung up in the Senate Rules Committee.

Hellewell said senators simply realized that Thompson's bill, which passed the House and would have banned the therapy, went too far. Thompson believes the therapy, where children are physically held against their will to induce anger that is otherwise expressed in harmful ways, is child abuse pretending to be therapy.

Thompson thought he had a deal to at least have his HB5 heard after being told by Senate leadership earlier in the day that he needed to choose whether he wanted his holding bill or his abortion bill to come to the floor. He told them holding therapy was more important right now than his late-term abortion bill. Contrary to his wishes, the Rules Committee forwarded his abortion bill, which was never voted on.

Even though no medical, psychiatric or pediatric association practices or endorses holding therapy, Hellewell said he has witnessed remarkable changes in children he knows who underwent treatment.

"This gives kids a conscience who didn't have one. We should ban any possible harmful physical aspects of it, but why ban it altogether?" he said, adding that his bill, SB137, was compromise legislation to prohibit certain forms of the therapy and was initially agreed to by Thompson.

Hellewell didn't try to bring his forward, he said, because the Orem clinic where the therapy is offered in Utah isn't doing the therapy his bill would restrict.

"That bill is unfair to the hundreds of families [the therapy] has healed," Hellewell said.

Similar legislation proposed last year by Thompson met the same fate. He said he'll be back next year.