Summit County reacts to Roe v. Wade decision |

Summit County reacts to Roe v. Wade decision

Legislature enacts Utah’s abortion ban on Friday, but a state judge temporarily halted the trigger law on Monday

More than 200 Parkites assembled on May 14 in response to a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court suggesting the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade could be overturned. On Friday, it was — prompting impassioned responses from both sides of the aisle across the nation – and in Summit County.
Toria Barnhart/Park Record

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion case ruling Roe v. Wade on Friday prompted impassioned responses from both sides of the aisle across the nation – and in Summit County.

The ruling came almost six weeks after hundreds of Parkites assembled in City Park as part of a nationwide movement to protect abortion rights in response to a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court suggesting Roe v. Wade could be thrown out. At the time, community speakers advocated for the right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction, particularly in Utah, which is one of 13 states with a trigger law that would ban the procedure in most circumstances. 

“This is not just an inconvenience. This is the government making decisions that are best made by the woman. This is government-mandated childbirth,” said Glenn Wright, a Summit County councilor and the Democrat running for U.S. Congressional District 3, in a prepared statement provided by the Summit County Democratic Party.

The Utah Legislature affirmed the state’s trigger law could go into effect Friday evening following the decision, but a state judge granted a request from the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah on Monday to temporarily halt the ban for the next two weeks and allow abortions to resume throughout the state.

While the ruling may be a small victory for abortion rights advocates in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, conservatives – including Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who sponsored the trigger law legislation – remain confident Utah’s abortion ban will be upheld.

“The Constitution does not guarantee the right to take a life. The Supreme Court can not take away something that was never ours to begin with. God would never have included this among our unalienable rights. I think He even gave us a commandment about it,” said Karen Ballash, the Summit County Republican Party chair in an email responding to The Park Record’s inquiries. “We see this decision as life-affirming, not just to these unborn babies, but to ourselves and our families. In this world of situational ethics, we know this is absolutely right. We are happy, but we aren’t gloating. We don’t like seeing others so angry.”

Ballash continued that the Supreme Court decision provides guidance for the Republican Party as well as the state of Utah and that people seeking abortions are still able to drive to Colorado or to Oregon for the procedure. Colorado in April passed a law guaranteeing an individual’s right to an abortion. Many companies also announced programs Friday to help pay for travel expenses to states where the procedure is still legal, a move that Ballash criticized.

“When I was a young woman in college, I was liberal. And I held many of the opinions of my ’70s generation,” Ballash said. “Once I had my first pregnancy, everything changed … the desire to protect my baby became so strong after birth that I would have been capable of killing anyone who laid a hand on him. I wish all mothers could know this feeling before they decide. Everything changes when you hold them in your arms. When you choose life.”

But Wright and other Democrats declare abortion access is a right.

Wright argued the potential negative health outcomes of childbirth exceed the risks of an early-term abortion. He added that the health and welfare of unplanned, and potentially unwanted, pregnancies could lead to neglect and other future burdens for the child and their family.

“Failure of contraception or failure of a contraceptive plan should not sentence a woman, her child and family to a more uncertain and potentially hazardous future,” he said.

Snyderville Basin Democrat Jill Fellow, who is running for Utah State Senate after a failed bid for the County Council in 2020, also condemned the Supreme Court decision.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade is not about saving babies. It is about reversing rights for women and keeping white men in power. This is wrong. This is unethical. And it is up to state leaders to protect their people from this devastating interpretation of the national law,” she said in a statement provided by the county’s Democratic Party.

She called on political leaders to protect life by allowing individuals to make decisions about their bodies and advocated for comprehensive sex education and legal abortions to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Katy Owens Hubler, the chair of the Summit County Democratic Party, said the move to overturn Roe v. Wade is evidence that local elections matter.

“The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned 50 years of precedent on reproductive rights for women and sent the issue to the states,” she said in an email to The Park Record. “Here in Utah, Republicans have gerrymandered their way to a supermajority in the Legislature, and in 2020 passed a law banning abortions in our state in all but the most extreme cases. The majority of Utahns support women’s access to reproductive healthcare and do not want these restrictions on abortion care. The Legislature isn’t listening to us.”

Canice Harte, a Democratic candidate for County Council, said he’s deeply troubled by the ruling.

“A woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and her healthcare is a fundamental right that Americans have relied upon for more than 50 years. That right has now been taken away by an activist Supreme Court,” he said in a prepared statement to the Democratic Party.

Like Hubler, Harte urged residents who disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to vote for candidates in November committed to protecting the rights of women so change starts locally and extends to the other levels of government.

Park City Councilor Becca Gerber previously advocated for the city to authorize its lobbyist to work in defense of abortion rights on behalf of the community if the issue reaches the state level. Park City Mayor Nann Worel was unable to be reached for comment about whether City Hall plans to take action in response to the Supreme Court decision.

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