Utah's six women state senators walk off floor in protest of abortion ultrasound bill

Posted at 10:13 AM, Mar 11, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — When a bill to require a woman seeking an abortion in Utah to have an ultrasound passed the State Senate, with every single woman lawmaker in the chamber walking off the floor.

Republican and Democrat, the female senators did not vote on House Bill 364 . Male lawmakers passed the bill on a 16-7 vote.

"The six Republican and Democratic women of the Senate decided to walk out in protest. It wasn't planned, but a spontaneous decision to put an exclamation mark on our concerns about the invasive nature of that bill," Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said in a text message. "I am very pro-life, and always vote for pro-life bills. But I'm concerned that we are overstepping with government mandates of medically unnecessary procedures."

Henderson proposed an amendment to remove a transvaginal ultrasound. The senator said she is pro-life, but felt the bill went too far.

As the legislation was debated, several senators spoke of the invasive nature of a transvaginal ultrasound. Henderson's amendment won the support of Democratic senators.

"I rise in support of something that stops government from intruding on someone's body," said Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.

Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, stared down her colleagues on the floor.

"It makes me sad when women have to stand and expose their life stories," Mayne said. "Why do we have to explain to you that this is not right? Why is government even there? To build a case to go to the Supreme Court. We shouldn't be there."

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said the bill doesn't force a woman to view the ultrasound but gave her the choice to do so.

"This ultimately may go the Supreme Court as will many pro-life bills. If so, that's appropriate," he told the Senate.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he had concerns about the legality of the bill. So did Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who both of whom voted against it.

"If a man is going to get a vasectomy, does he have to watch a movie about babies?" Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, said. "This is a personal choice each person comes to on their own. If a man doesn't have to watch a movie, a woman shouldn't have to either."

Bramble countered that "nothing is more powerful than seeing what is happening to your own baby."

This story was originally published by Ben Winslow on KSTU in Salt Lake City.