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Group cancels Salt Lake convention over Utah laws on abortion, transgender girls sports

The Salt Palace Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency, which is under construction, are pictured in Salt Lake City on March 23. A professional medical and research ethics organization has canceled its planned convention in Salt Lake City due to recently passed legislation.

The Salt Palace Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency, which is under construction, are pictured in Salt Lake City on March 23. A professional medical and research ethics organization has canceled its planned convention in Salt Lake City due to recently passed legislation. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A professional medical and research ethics organization has canceled its planned convention in Salt Lake City in response to the Utah Legislature's enactment of a "trigger law" that bans most abortions and its recent passage of legislation that bans transgender girls from competing in high school sports.

In a tweet, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research said Utah's laws "deny access to essential health care for people who can become pregnant and deny people the opportunity to participate in sports aligned with their gender identity; they are discriminatory and antithetical to PRIM&R's values as an ethics organization."

Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research "is committed to choosing conference locations where we are confident the health, safety, personal autonomy and basic human rights of all individuals attending our meeting — staff, members, vendors, collaborators and other constituents — are protected," the organization tweeted.

The conference, scheduled for Nov. 14-18, will shift to a virtual platform Dec. 12-15.

A letter to members by Elisa A. Hurley, the organization's executive director, indicated that it takes two to five years to reserve meeting space and lodging "for a conference this size."

Visit Salt Lake confirmed the convention's cancellation. Some 2,400 attendees were expected in November.

The American Society for Human Genetics has also canceled its convention in October 2028, citing the same rationale, according to Karen Boe, Visit Salt Lake's vice president of communications and public relations. An estimated 7,300 people were expected to attend that gathering.

On average, a delegate spends $971 while attending a convention in Salt Lake City, according to surveys of attendees by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, responded in a statement: "Though an organization has decided to relocate, other organizations have chosen Utah to hold conferences and events. While I disagree with the tactics of boycotting, our economy remains strong, and we will continue to pass policies that are in the best interest of all Utahns."

The letter refers to SB174, the law Utah lawmakers passed in 2020 to position Utah to protect the life of unborn children if or when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. That decision came last month.

The so-called Utah trigger law allows abortions only if the mother's life is at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if two physicians who practice "maternal fetal medicine" both determine that the fetus "has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or ... has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable."

Planned Parenthood Association of Utah has challenged the constitutionality of the law in state court. Earlier this month, 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily prevents the law from taking effect.

The letter also refers to HB11, passed by the Utah Legislature during its general session earlier this year. The legislation, adopted in the final hours of the legislative session, bans transgender girls from competing in girls high school sports.

In late May, ACLU of Utah and other advocacy groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of two transgender girls who attend public schools that challenges the Utah law.

Christine Durham, former chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court and senior of counsel at Wilson Sonsini, one of the law firms participating in the lawsuit, said in the statement that the law "cannot survive constitutional scrutiny and it endangers transgender children."

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