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Will expanding reporting options in Utah help rape victims seeking an abortion?

House Assistant Minority Whip Jennifer Daily-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City in January. Dailey-Provost announced plans on Tuesday to introduce a bill to expand reporting options for rape victims after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade.

House Assistant Minority Whip Jennifer Daily-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City in January. Dailey-Provost announced plans on Tuesday to introduce a bill to expand reporting options for rape victims after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, has announced plans to introduce a bill expanding reporting options for rape victims after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

A Utah trigger law banning abortions briefly took effect Friday before a judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking it Monday.

Utah's new state law bans abortion with very few exceptions. Abortions at any stage are illegal except in cases of the mother's life being at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if two physicians who practice maternal medicine determine that the fetus has a severe brain abnormality.

The state law, SB174, went into effect following the Supreme Court's ruling on Friday but a Utah judge issued a temporary restraint on the law for a 14-day period following an emergency hearing requested by Planned Parenthood. The judge ruled that abortions scheduled prior to the Supreme Court's decision could continue to take place.

Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and American Civil Liberties of Utah are suing the state, claiming the trigger law violates the Utah Constitution. The case will likely be appealed to the Utah Court of Appeals or Utah Supreme Court. While the lawsuit is ongoing, state and community leaders are working to expand options once the temporary ban expires.

One such attempt includes a proposed bill to broaden the list of entities to which rape can be legally reported. While incidents of rape or incest are outlined as exceptions in Utah's abortion ban, the language surrounding exceptions may limit access in some cases.

For an abortion to be granted under the exceptions of rape or incest requires victims to report the incident to law enforcement and to comply with "requirements related to reporting suspicious of or known child abuse."

One in five women will be raped in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. On a state level, 1 in 6 Utah women report being raped in their lifetime and 1 in 3 report experiencing some form of sexual violence, according to state statistics.

Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that ranks higher than the national average.

While the impact of sexual violence is widespread, it is vastly underreported. For every 1,000 sexual assaults, only approximately 310 are reported to police, according to the Department of Justice in an analysis of a crime victimization survey. Over two-thirds of sexual assaults that occur go unreported to police.

"Most women who are raped will not report their assault to police for many reasons," said Dailey-Provost in a prepared statement. "Victims of sexual assault are often consumed by shame and fears of retaliation. They worry about how they will be judged. Many fear that our criminal justice system does not have the capacity to meet their needs. We need to offer survivors of rape or incest multiple avenues to report the crime and receive the care and treatment they need without being retraumatized."

The proposed bill will broaden the option of legally reporting the incident to include crisis centers, domestic and sexual violence resource centers and physicians. Dailey-Provost sponsored a similar bill in the 2020 general session.

While Dailey-Provost pointed to several reasons for not reporting, it can vary among individuals.

Victims gave the following reasons for not reporting the incident from 2005-2010, according to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network:

  • 20% feared retaliation
  • 13% believed the police would not do anything to help
  • 13% believed it was a personal matter
  • 8% reported to a different official
  • 8% believed it was not important enough to report
  • 7% did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble
  • 2% believed the police could not do anything to help
  • 30% gave another reason, or did not cite one reason

Domestic and sexual violence advocates have expressed concern that Utah's detailed exceptions will prevent victims from accessing abortions due to a lack of reporting.

Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition released a statement which read in part:

"All people, including domestic violence survivors, deserve full control over their lives and decisions, including the ability to safely and freely decide whether to become, or stay, pregnant. The ability to make decisions about emergency contraception and pregnancy termination, especially in abusive relationships, can be a critical component of finding safety and healing. Access to these options is necessary for survivors to live independent lives free of from all types of abuse."

State Rep. Cheryl Acton said Tuesday that her bill, HB136, which was passed three years ago, is now the law of the state while the temporary restraining order over SB174 is in effect. HB136 bans elective abortions after 18 weeks with a few exceptions: "rape, incest, life of the mother, permanent impairment of the mother, fatal fetal defect and severe brain abnormality."

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State of UtahUtah LegislaturePoliticsU.S.UtahSalt Lake County
Ashley Fredde covers human services, minority communities and women's issues for She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She's a graduate of the University of Arizona.


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