SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah state legislator has proposed a bill that would increase the frequency of abortion clinic inspections.
Under the measure proposed by Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, clinics that offer abortions during a woman's first or second trimester would be inspected twice a year.
Wimmer said it was prompted by an investigation into a Philadelphia abortion clinic that was not examined for more than decade. The doctor, Kermit Gosnell, in that case has been charged with eight counts of murder, including killing seven babies born alive.
"The goal of the increased inspections is to make sure that abortion clinics are complying with the laws that we've put in place." Rep. Carl Wimmer
While Utah has one of the highest birth rates in the country, the state has some of the lowest abortion rates in the nation -- with 3,932 abortions in 2007.
Utah has four clinics that provide elective abortions and all are in Salt Lake County. Of those, only the Utah Women's Clinic is licensed by the Department of Health to provide second-trimester abortions.
The clinic is inspected every two to three years or upon receiving a complaint, Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko said. Miriam Stake, an administrator at the Utah Women's Clinic said they undergo inspections about once a year.
Hospitals rarely offer abortions, and only when they are medically necessary.
Wimmer told The Associated Press that abortion clinics in Utah have not undergone inspections since 2008 due to budget constraints. The state health department said the frequency of inspections has not changed as a result of budget issues.
Planned Parenthood of Utah is not concerned with being inspected or regulated. We're more concerned that he's singling out one procedure for women, and there are other procedures that have complications for both men and women and they are not being regulated like this.
"The goal of the increased inspections is to make sure that abortion clinics are complying with the laws that we've put in place, said Wimmer, who has introduced anti-abortion bills in the past.
Critics of House Bill 171 said his proposal is singling out women.
"Planned Parenthood of Utah is not concerned with being inspected or regulated. We're more concerned that he's singling out one procedure for women, and there are other procedures that have complications for both men and women and they are not being regulated like this," said Melissa Bird, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Council.
Planned Parenthood of Utah became the state's fourth provider of first-trimester abortions in October.
Wimmer said he also planned to introduce a "right of conscience" bill that would not allow clinics to fire doctors solely based on their refusal to perform abortions.
"Right now, if a doctor is working for a hospital that doesn't do abortions and their management changes, a doctor could be fired if they refuse to do abortions," Wimmer said. "There is limited protection for doctors and pharmacists now who do not want to perform abortions or do not want to prescribe the morning after pill."
Critics say such a law would take too much power away from abortion clinics by allowing anti-abortion doctors to stay on aboard and prevent the facilities from operating effectively.
"Abortions are one of the safest medical procedures provided, but some legislators keep making it harder for clinics to operate," said William Adams, a doctor at the Mountain View Women's clinic, one of the four facilities that provide elective abortions. "If they succeed, women will still be able to get abortions, but it will create more health and social problems."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)