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SB 174: Banning Abortion Behind Closed Doors

On Friday, February 21, Utah State Senator Daniel McCay introduced SB 174, Abortion Prohibition Amendments, to the State Legislature. According to Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah, “[t]his bill would ban all abortions in the state of Utah except in cases of rape or incest, if the pregnant person’s health or life is at risk, or if the fetus won’t survive or has a severe brain abnormality.” Senator McCay included a trigger date within SB 174, which would put his proposed ban into effect as soon as the Supreme Court allows states to legally prohibit abortions. Currently, McCay’s bill goes against the US Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion; however, this landmark ruling is currently under threat due to an upcoming case combined with Donald Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Chloe S
chloe s. / Unsplash

This spring, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Gee. The subject of this case is a Louisiana law that requires abortion service providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The Center for Reproductive Rights is fighting the law on the grounds that it reflects an identical Texas law fought in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which was struck down in 2016. Although the Center for Reproductive Rights has legal precedent on its side, the Supreme Court’s balance has shifted with the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative who served as the “swing” vote in cases that preserved a woman’s right to choose. Without Justice Kennedy’s vote, plus Kavanaugh’s documented opposition to abortion, it is likely that the Center for Reproductive Rights will not receive a favorable ruling in June Medical Services v. Gee.


It is unlikely that June Medical Services v. Gee will lead to the destruction of the Roe v. Wade decision alone; however, if strengthened by a multiplicity of abortion restrictions, it could dismantle the woman’s right to an abortion. This is exactly the result that Utah State Senator Daniel McCay is hoping for with SB 174 and its trigger date. Undoubtedly, McCay is aware of the upcoming Supreme Court hearing, along with its potential implications. If passed, McCay’s Abortion Prohibition Amendments would dispose of public discourse regarding Utah’s abortion laws in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. Extensive polling data show that most voters believe abortions should be legal in “all” or “most” cases, which makes SB 174 seem to undercut popular opinion.


Regardless of one’s position on abortion, the tactics being utilized to abolish one’s right to choose are questionable at the very least. After all, 73% of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. With this in consideration, Utah State Senator Daniel McCay’s SB 174 – which places a second-degree felony on abortions – is outlandish.

Junior at the University of Utah