On the first day of the Legislature, thousands of people descended on the Capitol as part of the Women’s March in Salt Lake City. The entire building was full of people demanding equality and dignity in the face of a hostile incoming administration. In particular, they called on state lawmakers to stand up for women and commit to protecting their rights. Here are some of the bills that we have seen over the course of the legislative session.
First, the Victories!
Tell Me About Telehealth!
First, a bill from Rep. Ken Ivory – HB 154 – that was, for the most part, an extremely good “telehealth” bill. It would make it easier for rural Utah residents to access health services in areas where it would otherwise be difficult. However, on the very last line of the bill was a provision prohibiting doctors from prescribing any abortion-inducing drug or treatment. This provision would have severely restricted rural Utahns from accessing abortion services. However, after the bill passed through the House of Representatives, Senator Shiozawa made an amendment during a Senate committee hearing to delete this bad provision from an otherwise good bill. Thank you, Sen. Shiozawa!
Testing Rape Kits
A great bill from Rep. Angela Romero making its way through the legislature is HB 200, Sexual Assault Kit Processing Amendments. This bill would make it mandatory to test every sexual assault and rape kit in the state. Currently, hundreds of rape kits go untested every year – in one county, only 4% of kits were tested! Fortunately, representatives see the importance of bringing justice to survivors of sexual assault and rape, and HB 200 passed unanimously out of the House! It is now making its way through the Senate, and Rep. Romero is trying to make sure the bill gets fully funded so every rape kit will be tested in the future. Way to go, Romero!
No Guns for Domestic Violence Offenders!
Rep. Brian King is currently pushing HB 206, which would prevent domestic violence offenders from possessing firearms. There is nearly one death a month as a result of domestic violence, and the presence of a gun only raises the chances of a homicide. So the bill seems like common sense, right? Fortunately our legislature seems to think so, and the bill passed through the House and is on its way to the Senate. Yay for the King!
Roll Up Your Sleeves – There is Work To Do!
Equal Pay for Equal Work
You may have heard about James Green, former vice chair of Wasatch County Republican Party, who made headlines nationwide for criticizing Sen. Anderegg’s Equal Wage Amendments bill SB 210. The bill is a decent one – it makes sure employers are not paying employees differently based on their gender. News of the bill itself has been overshadowed by Green’s actions (who resigned as a result of the negative backlash), but it still needs a hearing in the Senate.
Aside from Rep. King’s firearms-related bill, he is also working on HB 384, addressing abortion clinic licensing requiring providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 15 minutes of their facility. If you saw last month’s “Movies that Matter” documentary Trapped, you may recall learning about TRAP laws, which means “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.” In other states, these laws have been deemed unconstitutional, so King states Utah could face litigation if such requirements remain on the books. After all, many who testified mentioned admitting privileges are not required of other outpatient services, such as men receiving vasectomies or even those in a dentist’s office. The law as it stands clearly targets this particular issue. Unfortunately the committee hearing the bill ran out of time before being able to vote on the bill, so for the time being it has been held in committee.
Give the Ladies Some Equality!
In the vein of equality was Sen. Dabakis’s SJR 10, a resolution ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, a simple amendment to the U.S. Constitution that says: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” While many may think, “Hey – it’s about time!” the ERA still faces significant resistance from many Republicans and the Utah Eagle Forum, and legislators will not even give the resolution a hearing. Boo.
We would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to thank our allies at Planned Parenthood of Utah for all they do in advocating for women’s health and rights within our state. Additionally, you should check out Utah Women Unite, a group advocating for women up on the Hill and in the community. If you want to give your legislators a pat on the back for great work they are doing, you can reach them here.