Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, is leading an effort in the Legislature to extend the waiting period prior to an abortion from 24 hours to 72. The presumption that underlies this bill is that women who seek an abortion are incompetent, ignorant or immoral. Given more time, they would make a different decision. That's an outrageous assumption.
Utah's abortion law already requires that a woman seeking an abortion be provided detailed information about the medical consequences to herself and the fetus, and the alternatives available for the payment of her medical expenses and adoption should she decide to carry the pregnancy to term. The law requires that this information be provided her in a face-to-face consultation at least 24 hours prior to the procedure.
This could be a large amount of information to consider in a single day. However, nothing in the law prevents a woman from taking more time to consider her options.
On the other hand, most women will have agonized over the decision to seek an abortion long before they see an abortion provider. For those women, who already are well-informed and have considered this emotionally wrenching decision in advance, imposing a 72-hour waiting period could be unnecessarily inconvenient, if not cruel.
For women from outlying areas of the state who have to travel hundreds of miles to Salt Lake City for the procedure, the 72-hour requirement could entail additional expense for a longer stay.
Both the added expense and the emotional toll of a longer process would be additional burdens on the women's constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.
But what about young women who might not have much information about abortion, adoption, the legal responsibilities of fathers and financial help that may be available for child-rearing? Utah law already requires that a physician must notify a parent or guardian at least 24 hours before performing an abortion on a minor. There are exceptions in cases of incest or child abuse.
If Utah legislators really want to cut down on the number of abortions in this state, they should provide comprehensive sex education in the public schools, including complete information on contraception and the laws governing parenthood and adoption. Instead, Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, is leading an effort to eliminate all sex education except abstinence-only from the schools.
Rep. Eliason, meanwhile, wants to play father knows best. That's an insult to Utah women.