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Utah committee blocks change in abortion rule

By Wendy Leonard | Posted - Feb. 23, 2017 at 2:28 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — An attempt to save the state costly legal fees in the future backfired for one Utah lawmaker Thursday.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, brought HB384 before the House Health and Human Services Committee, intending to remove a provision in Utah law that requires physicians who provide abortions to have hospital admitting privileges in case something were to go awry during the procedure.

King said similar provisions have been taken down by legal action in other states, following a notable Supreme Court decision on abortion last year.

"We're talking about protecting taxpayer funds," King said, though his attempt was rebutted by a gaggle of anti-abortion activists debating the merits of abortion altogether, which isn't included in his bill.

Opponents said patients have a right to safety should complications result from the first-trimester procedure. King said, however, that the outpatient surgery has a complication rate of less than half of 1 percent, according to data stated in the Supreme Court decision.

"Having those privileges provides a safety net for patients," said Deanna Holland, vice president at Pro-Life Utah.

Holland said such a requirement lets patients know a provider is in good standing.

Local obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Leah Torres said the surgical abortions she performs are similar to treating a common miscarriage or other minimally invasive office procedures, which don't require hospital admitting privileges.

"These requirements are not made of any other specialty or health care provider," Torres told the committee. "Many dental procedures, requiring medication and anesthesia, as well as colonoscopies, carry higher risk rates than a first-trimester abortion."

King said regardless of a person's stance on abortion, his bill is intended to "be proactive in a way that protects taxpayer funds."

He's looking to avoid a costly but inevitable legal battle for the state, in which he believes the provision will be struck down as it has been in other states.

The committee ran out of time Thursday, opting to adjourn instead of taking a vote on King's bill. Committees have until end of day Friday to pass bills to the floor for further discussion. Email: Twitter: wendyleonards

Wendy Leonard


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