Utah has become the latest state to restrict abortion, but many prolife activists are less than pleased with the new measure. In late January, Utah governor Norman Bangerter (R) signed into law a bill that prohibits abortions, except in cases of rape and incest, through the twentieth week of pregnancy, when a woman’s life is endangered, or when a doctor concludes the child would have physical or mental defects “incompatible with sustained survival” or there would be “grave damage to the pregnant woman’s medical health.”

The last provision, added late in the legislative process, provoked strong opposition from prolife forces. “The intent of the new language was explicitly to include ‘mental health’ reasons [as medical reasons] for an abortion, and those who perform abortions have long openly claimed that having any ‘unwanted child’ would pose grave damage to a mother’s mental health,” said a statement released by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). The group added that it will oppose enactment of this law in other states.

A spokesperson for Bangerter said the governor requested the provision after he received legal counsel that the original version might be considered unconstitutional. The governor is standing by the enacted version. “Any governor who is against abortion would be very comfortable signing this bill,” the governor said.

The law is expected to be challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocates of abortion. Sponsors of the law hope this will lead to a direct challenge of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Within the next few months, federal appeals courts will be hearing arguments on abortion restrictions passed last year by Pennsylvania and Guam.

In other abortion-related activities:

• “Keep the RU 486 abortion pill out of the United States,” was the message a delegation of religious and prolife leaders had for officials of the European companies manufacturing and distributing the drug. During meetings in France and Germany, the prolifers asserted that the American public is against introducing RU 486 in the U.S., despite what prochoice activists may have said during a fall visit to Europe.

“I came away with a clear impression that they understood the situation in the United States was very different from the situation in France,” said Richard Land, executive director of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission.

Along with Land, members of the delegation included representatives from Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the International Right to Life Federation, and the NRLC.

• An estimated 25,000 demonstrators marked the eighteenth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Organizers acknowledged that unusually cold temperatures and the fear of terrorist attacks kept many people away this year.

President Bush addressed the crowd by telephone hookup. “Despite the successes [of prolife efforts], abortion continues unabated in this country,” he said. “Government and private sectors must be more involved in encouraging alternatives such as adoption.”

• A group of prolife United Methodists is urging its denomination to shift its focus from the politics of abortion to ministry for women with unwanted pregnancies.

“We were tired of abortion being a political issue and wanted to do more,” said Steven Paul Wissler, director of the Task Force of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality. The group has proposed the development of “Sheltering Churches,” a national church-based network offering women free abortion prevention ministry, including standardized adoption and family support services.

Wissler said the task force’s goals are to have 1,000 churches enrolled in the program by 1992 and to see a 10 percent decline in the abortion rate by the end of 1993.

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