July 2022 Newsletter: New State Prison & The Dobbs Decision
Happy Pioneer Day!
Happy Pioneer Day this weekend to you and your family! As we celebrate our state's heritage and pioneer spirit, I've been thinking a lot about my own ancestors who were pioneer saints who pulled hand carts across the plains, in search of religious freedom and a place to call home. I am so grateful for their courage, grit, faith, and sacrifice; they truly embody America's pioneering spirit. May we always remember the innovative, pioneering spirit our state was built upon.
I hope you have an enjoyable weekend filled with family, friends, and great food! Here’s a brief update on the past month:
New State Prison
The need for a new state prison has been pressing for a decade. Last month, the Utah Department of Corrections unveiled the new State Correctional Facilities which will both protect public safety and improve social outcomes.
I appreciated the opportunity to tour the new state prison. The new site will be better suited for the prison and the new facility has significant and improved upgrades from the Draper prison. It was especially helpful to meet with the Director and Corrections Officers to learn more about the day-to-day life of an officer who works there. While there are major environmental, safety and amenities improvements for staff, we still have work to do to pay our officers the salary they deserve. Even after the pay increase we did during the 2022 General Session, officers are still just paid $24/hour. Because of the staff shortage, they are required to work overtime and many will endure being spit on, cussed out, and even have fecal matter thrown at them. Clearly we can and should be doing better. I’ll be working with my colleagues leading up to the session to find ways to give our officers the needed pay increase that they deserve.
Court’s Decision in Dobbs, Utah’s Trigger Law & Where Things Are At:
June 24th marked a historic day for our country with the announcement of the Supreme Court’s final decision in Dobbs, overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Shortly after the Court’s decision was released, Utah’s trigger law became effective. The trigger law, SB 174, prohibits abortion except in cases of rape, incest, the life of the mother is at risk, or serious fetal deformities. To be clear, under SB 174, the following are NOT abortions under Utah law: natural miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy removal, removal of a stillborn baby, or pre-pregnancy birth control.
Just a couple days after Utah’s trigger law went into effect, the Third District Court issued an injunction of SB 174; while this law is under a restraining order of the court, HB 136 is Utah’s current abortion law. The law prohibits elective abortion after 18 weeks' gestation with six exceptions: rape, incest, life of the mother, permanent impairment of the mother, fatal fetal defect, and severe brain abnormality. In addition, a mother cannot abort a baby just
because a child has down syndrome.
We value life in Utah and the state has a vested interest in protecting the life of the unborn. While Utah’s trigger law works its way through the courts, I will continue to advocate for pro-life policies that protect babies in the womb and families. Over interim, I have been working on ways to increase resources to pregnancy resource centers, raising awareness for postpartum depression and anxiety, and finding ways to provide financial relief to families.
Upcoming Interim Meeting
I hope you and family are enjoying your summer and are finding ways to beat the heat! We didn’t have any formal interim committee meetings this month but will be meeting again on August 17th, you can participate in committee discussions at www.le.utah.gov.