SALT LAKE CITY, JAN. 21 -- A Utah legislative committee today sent to the state Senate a restrictive new abortion bill.
An opponent said it could be passed by both houses by as early as Wednesday and contended the Utah Legislature is bypassing routine procedures to "railroad" the bill through without public attention or comment.
The special joint Senate and House health committee voted 4 to 1 to advance the bill to the Senate following debate interrupted by abortion-rights advocates.
Gov. Norman H. Bangerter (R) has threatened to veto an abortion bill he considers unconstitutional, but said last Friday he was more comfortable with the new legislation.
The bill was expected to reach the Senate floor Tuesday, and Susan Millsaps, executive director of the Utah National Abortion Rights Action League, said both the Senate and House leaders likely would waive the rules in order to consider the bill swiftly.
"The intent is to introduce and pass this bill all in one day, clearly not allowing sufficient time for public discussion or constituency input," she said.
State Sen. LeRay McAllister, drafter of the compromise bill being considered, has denied any attempt to rush the bill through without comment, but he acknowledged the Senate may suspend its rules in order to speed up the process.
The compromise bill has two tiers of restrictions, with the second tier containing slightly modified requirements in case the first set is restrained in federal court or found unconstitutional.
The first tier provides that an abortion could be performed only to save a woman's life or if she is jeopardized by "life-threatening damage."
Abortion also would be permissible if a single doctor concluded the child would be born with profound and irremediable physical or mental disabilities "incompatible with sustained survival."
The second tier would permit abortion to prevent "grave damage to the pregnant woman's medical health" or to prevent the birth of a child who would be born with "profound and irremediable physical or mental disabilities."
Meanwhile, antiabortion protesters formed a human cross in California and lined a 60-mile stretch of Florida highway to mark the 18th anniversary Tuesday of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
In Florida, members of 530 churches stood along Highway 41 from Naples to Bradenton waving identical blue and white signs reading: "Abortion Kills Children."
In New Orleans, antiabortion protesters formed a five-mile line holding signs identical to those used in the Florida demonstration while abortion opponents in Bismarck, N.D., rallied at the state Capitol to support a legislative measure that would require doctors to discuss with a woman contemplating abortion the risks involved and the development of the fetus.