Several state lawmakers joined anti-abortion activists and religious leaders at a memorial service Wednesday for the estimated 1,746 unborn babies terminated since Utah's trigger abortion ban was placed on hold in June.
Gathered on the steps of the state Capitol, about 100 mourners listened as several faith leaders eulogized the unborn and decried a court decision that paused the state’s trigger ban.
For eight minutes before the memorial began, loudspeakers played the sound of a fetal heartbeat before a moment of silence was observed.
"The loss of any baby through abortion is tragic but I think the loss of these babies hit us just a little bit harder knowing that they came so close to being spared this horror," Mary Taylor, president of Pro-Life Utah, said in a statement.
Rev. Gregory Johnson, of Utah's Standing Together evangelical church, pointed to 1,746 carnations on the steps behind him, saying each flower represents one of the unborn children.
"Every one of these babies was filled with infinite potential and hope for a brighter future," he said. "They were clean and pure and beautiful and wonderful and full of love. These precious little souls were not allowed to be born and to come into life. These delicate little lives were not given that choice, and so today we honor their lives."
Elder K. Bruce Boucher, Utah area seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opened the memorial with prayer, asking that "we might be able to bring about a great change in the hearts of some that may be with us today."
Deanna Holland, executive director of Pro-Life Utah, called the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey a "miracle," and praised the Legislature for passing a trigger ban in 2020, in anticipation of such a ruling.
"Roe and Casey came crashing down," she said. "That very same day, Utah's trigger law went into effect, and for just a moment, abortion stopped. We breathed the breath of air of righteousness and praised God that Utah babies would be saved."
"And then the devil showed his face," Holland said, referencing a lawsuit by the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the ACLU of Utah, which ultimately led to the trigger ban being placed on hold.
Tyler spoke of her own experience having an abortion, and the regret she feels looking back on that decision.
"I ignorantly believed it was my body, my choice, never considering his body, and his choice," she said. "I've cried countless tears for my child and the millions of others who have met the same fate. I've worked countless hours desperately trying to right that wrong. When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, this was a personal victory for me and, for just a moment, I thought that my work might be finished. But that satisfaction did not last long."
Tyler also criticized the decision to pause Utah's trigger ban, which was issued by the state's 3rd District Judge Andrew Stone.
"This Legislature did the work of the people and they banned this horrific and barbaric practice in the state of Utah," she said. "And yet, Judge Stone reasoned that you should block this legislation from going into effect on the grounds that implementing this law might cause irreparable harm. How ironic."
After the memorial, Tyler carried a small casket to a hearse, leading a procession to the Memorial for the Unborn at the Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Salt Lake City. Several Republican state lawmakers — Sens. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, and Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, and Reps. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, Cheryl Acton, R-Salt Lake City, Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, and Mark Strong, R-Bluffdale — were listed as pallbearers.
Lisonbee was one of the leading sponsors of Utah's trigger ban, along with Sen. Dan McCay, R-Salt Lake City.