Proposed legislation that would increase the involvement of parents whose underage daughters have abortions received an overwhelming show of support among lawmakers Tuesday.
Flanked by many of his colleagues in the House, Ogden Republican Kerry Gibson unveiled a bill that would require doctors to get parental consent at least 24 hours before performing the procedure on anyone 18 years or younger.
"We've decided as a society there are certain things a minor doesn't have the ability to do," Gibson said during a news conference at the state Capitol.
One of those things, he said, is making an informed decision about getting an abortion without parental guidance.
HB85 is co-sponsored by 52 of Gibson's fellow House Republicans — all but three Republican representatives and none of the 18 Democratic members of the House.
The decision to get an abortion has lifelong ramifications, Gibson said, and one that minors should not be making without guidance. HB85, he said, seeks to balance the rights and responsibilities of parents with the safety of minors.
"I feel that this is truly a parental rights bill," he said.
Requiring the consent of parents before their daughters get an abortion, he said, "puts the decision back where it needs to be, which is at home, in the living room, with the families."
But critics say the decision is already being made with parental involvement and Gibson's bill represents an unnecessary intrusion into Utahns' private lives.
Karrie Galloway, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Utah, estimates that 95 percent of girls who get abortions are accompanied to clinics by their parents.
"He's the one who's deciding what my parental rights are," Galloway said, calling the proposed legislation a "blatant disregard of my own family dynamics."
"This is parental interference," she said. "This is the Legislature of Utah, who continually discuss issues of government not interfering in the family, telling me as a parent how I have to handle the notification that my daughter is going to have an abortion."
Current state law requires physicians to notify a girl's parents before performing an abortion, but does not allow the parents to stop the procedure. The law has been in place for more than 30 years and has worked well that entire time, Galloway said.
"If we're trying to fix a problem, that's a reason for legislation," she said. "If we're trying to prevent a problem . . . there's a reason for legislation. But I see no reason for this legislation interfering in family dynamics."
Gibson disagrees that the current law is effective. "I don't think this is working in the best interests of these kids."
In 2004, 10 girls under the age of 15 had abortions in Utah and 148 girls aged 15 to 17 received abortions, according to provisional data from the Utah Department of Health.
The proposed legislation exempts parental consent in cases of incest or abuse and in the case of a medical emergency. It also removes the requirement that a woman's husband be notified prior to his wife's abortion — a provision that, according to Gibson, "brings (Utah) into the 21st century."
It also allows a minor to bypass the parental consent requirement by seeking a court order allowing the abortion to go forward.
Galloway doesn't anticipate a court challenge if the bill passes in the upcoming legislative session. The proposed legislation is well-crafted and based on similar laws in other states that have been upheld to be constitutionally sound, she said.
"In that respect, I appreciate that we aren't Utah out there trying to push the envelope again," Galloway said.
Approximately two-thirds of states have some type of parental notification or consent law regarding abortions for minors.