Press Release: Abortion Bill Should be Considered in Context of its True Cost

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 7, 2018
CONTACT: Katie Matheson | Alliance for a Better Utah

ABORTION BILL SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN CONTEXT OF ITS TRUE COST

Salt Lake City, UTA good government advocacy group is claiming the full costs of a controversial abortion bill have not been disclosed to the public and is now asking the Attorney General for an estimate before a final vote on the bill is taken.

The Alliance for a Better Utah hand-delivered a letter to the Utah Attorney General’s Office this morning requesting an estimate of the legal costs that would be necessary to defend Rep. Karianne Lisonbee’s “Down Syndrome Nondiscrimination Abortion Act” in court. The legislature’s own counsel determined the bill, H.B. 205, “has a high-probability of being declared unconstitutional by a court.” Advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood, have already signaled their intent to legally challenge the bill should it be passed into law.

In the letter, Better Utah said it requested this information from the Attorney General because his office would ultimately be using taxpayer funds to defend the law. They believe using public money in defense of the bill’s provisions means the “true cost” of the bill should be revealed.

“Every bill comes with a fiscal note, letting legislators and the public know its budget impact,” said Josh Kanter, Better Utah’s board chair. “Unfortunately, these fiscal notes do not take into account the hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, of dollars of taxpayer money that is often expended as a result of reckless legislation passed to send a message even if it may be unconstitutional.”

The group acknowledged the difficulty that comes with projecting legal costs in advance of a case, but says there have been many cases in which the Attorney General’s Office has had to defend the constitutionality of laws passed by the Legislature. Better Utah says it would be satisfied receiving a range of estimated costs based on such prior cases.

In 2007, the Utah Attorney General’s Office warned the Legislature that a bill banning most abortions would cost approximately $1.3 million to defend in court, although other estimates placed the costs higher at somewhere between $2 million to $8 million. Better Utah hopes the Attorney General’s Office will provide similar estimates in response to their request.

“Legislators and the public deserve to know what they’re getting themselves into if this bill passes and is signed into law by the Governor,” said Kanter. “This bill could have real costs — possibly millions of dollars that could otherwise be put toward schools, healthcare, or a number of other good uses. With H.B. 205 now moving to the Senate, we hope the Attorney General will respond to our request and provide an estimated cost with enough time for everyone to fully consider the implications of this bill.”

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

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Alliance for a Better Utah is a good government advocacy and watchdog organization based in Salt Lake City. The organization works to improve the lives of all Utahns by ensuring balance, transparency, and accountability in Utah politics, policy, and government. More information at www.betterutah.org.

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