(Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville)
Utah has become the first state to enact a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. The new law took effect on Tuesday.
Sponsored by Republican Representative Steve Eliason, HB 461 expands the previous 24-hour waiting period for an abortion by two days, making it the longest waiting period in the country.
Introduced in February, HB 461 was passed by the Utah House in early March with 59 yeas, 11 nays, and 5 abstentions. A few days later, it was passed by the Utah Senate in a vote of 22 yeas, 6 nays, and 1 abstention. Republican State Senator Curtis Bramble was the sponsor for the Senate version.
"I think it's a positive change for women and children … At the end of the day, it's a consumer-protection law," said Eliason in an interview with the Salt Lake City Tribune.
The bill was not without its opponents, as Planned Parenthood Association of Utah testified against HB 461 and argued that the previous waiting period statute was sufficient.
Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of PPAU, told The Christian Post that the "former waiting period allowed a woman to take all the time she needed to make a decision."
"With a time sensitive medical procedure, increasing the waiting time was an intrusive, arbitrary hoop for women to navigate," said Galloway.
"Throughout the process we tried to work with the sponsor to mitigate the intrusiveness of his legislation but he was unwilling."
Eliason and his supporters believed, however, that the one-day period was not long enough, with Eliason comparing HB 461 to the waiting periods established for cancer treatments and gun purchases.
"The focus of this bill is women having time to consider all of the information that is given to them when facing a life-altering decision that somebody else is making money off of," said Eliason to the Tribune.
Eliason did not return a request for comment by press time.
According to Deseret News, Utah's waiting period statute was one of 311 new statutes passed by the 2012 legislature that went into effect on Tuesday.
Neither Planned Parenthood nor the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah have expressed an intention to presently file a lawsuit. However, both organizations have expressed an intention to closely monitor the implementation of the law.
Before Utah's statute took effect, South Dakota had passed a bill that would have made it the first state to have a 72-hour waiting period. However, a court blocked the measure from taking effect.