Wait and Think About It

Utah reportedly has the longest abortion waiting period in the country.  In 2012 the Utah legislature extended the mandatory waiting period before abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.  The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Utah called it “the most onerous law in the land.”

The sponsor of the Bill, Rep. Steve Eliason, rejected the assertion that the bill was “Pro-Life.”  Rather, he considered it a “Pro-Consumer” bill, protecting the right of a woman to understand her options and the consequences of abortion before making an abortion decision.

Waiting periods protect women against being rushed into having an abortion that many will later regret.  Certainly the tens of thousands (now probably millions) of women who have carried grievous regrets throughout the rest of their lives after having a hasty abortions can testify of the value of giving women with an unplanned pregnancy a little time to “wait and think” before they are rushed into an irreversible medical procedure that will kill a living human in utero.

The killing of one’s own living progeny, even if unborn, can haunt a person and can impact other family members and family relationships severely. The consequences are not merely immediate and temporary, but they are permanent and perpetual.  Later relationships and later children – persons not even born at the time of decision — will be affected by that lethal choice.

Utah’s waiting period requirement before abortion probably is one of the reasons why Utah has one of the lowest abortion rates in the nation.  In 2011, the rate of legal abortions in Utah was just 5.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-22.  That same year, the overall U.S. abortion rate was 16.9 – more than three times the abortion rate in Utah.

Nationally, the abortion rate for known pregnancies in 2011 was 18%.  In Utah that same year, only 5% of known pregnancies were ended by abortion.

Nationally, there seems to be a slackening of pro-life leadership. For example, despite huge Republican success in the November 2014 elections, Republicans leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2015 suddenly shelved a bill to prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks when they discovered that they were short of the votes needed to pass the measure. Instead, they pushed forward a bill permanently banning federal funding of abortion – which largely repeats prohibitions that have been enacted annually for many years.

“Wait-and-see” laws like Utah’s 72-hour waiting period requirement protect women’s right to make informed, carefully-considered decisions about very important matters like abortion.  Furthermore, it is easy for most people to see that opponents of such informed-choice laws that protect women who are in difficult circumstances because of an unexpected pregnancy have an agenda that subordinates the welfare of such women to partisan political objectives.

It is time to enact a law protecting all American pregnant women by insuring them the time to obtain and process all of the information that bears upon the abortion.  So how about passing a federal law requiring a 72-hour waiting period before abortion anywhere in the nation?

Sources: Dennis Romboy, Nation’s longest abortion waiting period …, Deseret News, 5/7/2012, at  (seen 150212).

Guttmacher Institute, State Factions About Abortion: Utah, (seen 150212).


-Posted 12 Feb 2015

by Lynn D. Wardle,  Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

Lynn Wardle