Utah’s law would protect the unborn, but it does little to help those already in need.
Utah is one of 13 states that has a trigger law to ban abortions if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
SB174 approved in 2020 with exemptions for rape or incest, risk to the life of the mother and certain fetal defects. At the recent Utah Republican Convention, there was talk of an amendment to remove all exemptions and replace them with language to “encourage adoption.”
However, to protect the unborn, we often neglect the needs of the people who live in our communities. As teachers and policymakers, we see scenarios in our schools, in every neighborhood, where our communities try to repair and support families and children who don’t have the resources or the security they need to thrive and even survive. Pro-life must be pro-all life.
To promote healthy and prosperous families across the state, we must provide education and resources to eliminate abuse in every home. In 2021, 9,062 children were confirmed victims of abuse, and of these cases, 1,469 children were placed in foster care. These children will experience trauma that could impact them for life. They are doubly victimized because the violence they have experienced will affect their ability to be independent and live a full life.
Last year, homelessness continued to rise: families, veterans, and students, all suffering from the lack of security that a home provides. On any given day, Utah has an estimated 3,131 homeless people, of which 290 were families. During the previous year, 13,745 students became homeless by staying in a shelter, without a shelter, in hotels, or sharing with another family. Changing schools, disrupting learning and friendships, the instability of their lives creates more problems for our community and the families involved.
According to the Utah Food Bank, 58.5 million meals were served last year. One in 10 Utahns experiences food insecurity. Utahns experiencing food insecurity have higher rates of suicide, depression, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. These ailments are lifelong and disproportionately affect low-income families. Utah can do more to meet the needs of prospective mothers. Women often consider abortion due to lack of safety.
In Utah, two out of 11 women will be victims of interpersonal violence, and nearly half of female homicide victims are killed by a current or former male intimate partner. 9.6% of the students were physically hurt by someone they were dating. These women need and deserve education in prevention strategies to protect them from sexual assault and violence. Young women and men also need education to prevent unintended pregnancy, so they can learn about healthy relationships that can help them create loving and trusting families.
And if all of these factors weren’t enough, Utah ranks at the bottom of all states in creating fair wages for women. The average Utah man earns more than $57,000 a year, while women earn an average of just under $40,000. That 30% gap is 50th between the states. Women in Utah face tremendous odds.
We often refer to the fetal heartbeat when we talk about abortion. All of the people referenced here have beating hearts, real needs, and have experienced trauma and heartbreak. We can do more for those in our communities who are struggling just to survive.
We are pro-community and pro-family because we believe all children need a community that keeps them safe and allows them to thrive. If we are serious about being pro-life, then Utah should work to create communities that support women, families, and children who need support.
Utah Senator Kathleen RiebeD-Cottonwood Heights.
Senator Luz EscamillaD-Salt Lake City.
Deputy Angela RomeroD-Salt Lake City.
Representative Carol Spackman MossD-Holladay.