When it comes to abortion bills currently up for debate in the state of Utah, I have ranked them from what I view as most to least likely to help victims of rape.
In first place, we have Sen. Kathleen Riebe's SB88
Second place, Rep. Kera Birkeland's HB297
And in last place, Jennifer Dailey-Provost's HB356
I will start with my thoughts on HB356 and work my way up.
While I am intrigued by a concept introduced by Dailey-Provost in HB356, I find myself favoring Birkeland's bill over Dailey-Provost's because HB356 still requires some form of proof that law enforcment was involved in the healthcare provider's verification of the rape, while Birkeland's amended HB297 does not. HB356 "permits a victim of rape or incest who is seeking an abortion to file a restricted law report in order to comply with the physician reporting requirements; permits a victim to make a non-binding request that law enforcement not pursue charges or investigate such a report; and provides that a restricted statement filed under these provisions is a protected record under the Government Records and Access Management Act."
I do not believe law enforcement has any place in a rape victim's access to abortion, unless she decides she wants to report of her own free will. However, the concept of a restricted filing that is not automatically pursued by charges or investigation, if made binding and removed from the abortion discussion, a portion of Rep. Dailey-Provost's bill could be powerful in combating domestic violence, if used in that legislative space...
A few years back, I asked a friend in law enforcement if I could bring forward evidence of extensive abuse I had suffered at the hands of an ex and not have my ex be contacted or informed. He had a history of stalking, threatening, and harrassing me, and I was fearful that if he found out I had opened a file, his deranged behavior would start up again. My thought process was, I had this proof of abuse and I worried he would repeat the same behavior with future partners. If I took what I had to the authorities, and told them I didn't want to press charges, I only wanted them to hold on to my evidence in case his next partner experienced similar abuse and reported, I could possibly help that person. I reasoned that, if my ex had changed (as I hoped), the file I opened on him would never see the light of day. If he hadn't changed, then the evidence I provided might help police take his next partner more seriously (than they did me the last time I was forced to call the police before ending things with him) and keep him or her safe. Unfortunately, my friend in law enforcement said it didn't work like that. He said "when you report it, they will contact him within 48 hours, depending on where he is located currently. They have to because the sh*# bag has a right to defend himself."
If we could take Dailey-Provost's portion from HB356 that "permits a victim to make a non-binding request that law enforcement not pursue charges or investigate such a report" and make it binding, that if a victim says do not contact or investigate, authorities do not contact or investigate, I think it would help so many women dealing with domestic violence come forward and be believed, knowing that other women had potentially already corroborated her story. Definitely something to keep in the back of our minds.
There are several components to Rep. Birkeland's bill that I support, such as offering emergency contraceptives, and help with medicial bills for the first year of the baby's life, should the woman choose to not abort. While I am happy the bill has been altered from its original draft and no longer requires a case number from law enforcement, or a signed affadavit, I still do not support a mandate to report. Even if she will not be "fact checked" on if she did or did not report, the knowledge that she is supposed to report to law enforcement will still place stress on the victim's shoulders, stress she does not need.
Which leads me to the last bill, and the one that has my full support.
Sen. Kathleen Riebe proposes to remove all requirements for a physician to verify a rape has been reported, entirely.
I know that, for many pro-life residents of Utah, there is a valid fear that if there is no means of verifying a woman was raped, she will lie to obtain an abortion. As I stated in my previous post, our very judicial system was founded on the belief that it is better for 10 guilty men to go free than 1 innocent man be wrongfully convicted. Why is the same not true for women? Why can we not simply trust women to do the right thing, and should she lie, allow that to be between her and her God? If Sen. Riebe's bill is passed, will some women lie and say they were raped to access abortion? Most likely, yes. However, as someone who has experienced the horrors of rape and know how fragile my mind was is in the inital weeks after such a violent crime, I would rather keep abortion access as easy as possible to those who truly need it, and allow God to deal with the women who may lie.
This bill will not stop the women who decide to immediatly report their rape, and to them I say, you are absolutely incredible; I wish I had been as strong as you. However, it will ease the burden on those women who are not quite ready to report and may never be ready. If they are never ready to file a report, that is okay, too.
As always, I will continue to monitor each of these bills and share my thoughts and any updates that come.