Sponsor: Rep. Ashlee Matthews (D)
Of the two bills seeking to expand doula coverage this session, H.B. 415 was the only one to pass. It adds doula services, plus coverage for direct-entry midwife care and access to birth centers, to the public employee health insurance program. As a result of the lower costs association with birth centers, this bill had a negative fiscal note—meaning it saved the state money.
Our take: Giving Utahns more options to manage their pregnancy and delivery the way they want to will result in better health outcomes for everyone involved.
Sponsor: Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion (D)
This bill expands language access legislation passed in prior sessions by allowing a person to complete the Utah driver’s license test in their preferred language (subject to availability) and allows a translator if the test cannot be provided in that language.
Our take: Expanding access to driver’s licenses will enable more Utahns to seek employment, attend school, and get to their health care appointments.
Sponsor: Sen. Wayne Harper (R)
More info: SB 133 Fact Sheet (Utah Health Policy Project | SB 133 Fact Sheet on postpartum coverage from ASCENT Center | SB 133 Fact Sheet on family planning coverage from ASCENT Center | SB133 Impact Document
After several years of failure, postpartum Medicaid expansion and increased access to family planning coverage finally passed the legislature. This was the biggest reproductive health care win of the session. Championed by Rep. Rosemary Lesser (D), these policies were added to Sen. Harper’s S.B. 133, which overcame several hurdles to pass both chambers. While abortion-related language will complicate federal approval, a fallback provision means that this bill will provide long-term, reliable health coverage to thousands of Utah families.
Our take: This bill bolsters two of our core goals: reducing maternal mortality and providing Utahns the information and resources they need to make their own reproductive health care decisions.
Sponsor: Rep. Candice Pierucci (R)
More info: H.B. 163 Fact Sheet
While it might have a long title, this bill has a simple goal: Require Utah schools and athletic associations to accommodate students who want to wear athletic uniforms that “cover or conceal parts of the student's body that are not covered or concealed by the athletic uniform.”
Our take: Any bill that gives students more control over their own bodies is positive legislation.
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Petersen (R)
Originally introduced to override Utah’s administrative ban on conversion therapy (instituted in 2020), meaningful outreach to the sponsor by Equality Utah, the Trevor Project and others transformed H.B. 228 into positive legislation that codifies a ban on conversion therapy into Utah law for the first time. How did this happen? Because both sides realized they each wanted clarity, not animosity, providing the foundation for a compromise bill that worked for everyone. Plus, legislative leadership did not want to debate a controversial bill on this topic.
Our take: This bill provides a rare but meaningful example of how constructive dialogue can overcome differences.
Sponsor: Rep. Brady Brammer (R)
More info: Planned Parenthood Fact Sheet on HJR 02
The first of several bills targeting abortion access in Utah, H.J.R. 2 re-wrote Utah’s civil procedure (the guidelines for applying the law) to undermine the injunction blocking SB 174, Utah's abortion trigger ban. After being amended to focus even more narrowly on Planned Parenthood’s court order, the resolution passed both chambers with 2/3 majorities and immediately became law. However, Utah has yet to initiative the legal steps to challenge the injunction. This is likely because the decision of the courts is less certain than the new ban passed by H.B. 467 (see below). Together with S.B. 129 “Judiciary Amendments,” which remove d long-standing bipartisan procedures for nominating judges in Utah, this resolution could be the beginning of legislative assault on the independence of the Utah court system.
Our take: Efforts like H.J.R. 2 to alter the rules for Utah’s judicial system indicate the legislature’s growing frustration with our legal success in sustaining the injunction to block the trigger ban—and their willingness to weaken the separation of powers to win at any cost.
Sponsor: Rep. Karianne Lisonbee (R)
In-depth Analysis: Impact Document-HB 467 (May 2023) (PDF)
Timeline: Major Changes to Utah Abortion Code (PDF)
Easily the worst bill for abortion rights in Utah in recent years, H.B. 467 prevents Utahns from accessing abortion and would functionally ban access to abortion in this state by May 3—the bill’s enactment date. First, it prohibits abortion care at licensed clinics and health centers like those operated by Planned Parenthood. Second, it requires all abortion care to occur at general hospitals—but does not require hospitals to offer this care. Third, it requires the state to revoke the license of any health care facility that provides an abortion in violation of any abortion bans in statute. These three provisions will functionally end access to the vast majority of abortions in Utah. The bill’s 1,000 lines of code also do more, such as adding “unprofessional conduct” penalties to providers who perform an abortion contrary to state law and clarifying but also restricting the abortion exceptions allowed in Utah’s trigger ban. Still unclear is the impact this bill has on the ongoing litigation over Utah’s trigger ban, including the injunction that blocks its enforcement. Follow Planned Parenthood of Utah for the latest updates on H.B. 467.
Our take: H.B. 467 could be the bill that ends abortion access in Utah—but the final, on-the-ground impact of this bill is still undetermined.
Sponsor: Rep. Kera Birkeland (R)
More info: H.B. 297 Fact Sheet
In-depth Analysis: Impact Document-HB 297 (May 2023)
Despite the words “victim services” in the title, H.B. 297 is an abortion bill. At the time when sexual assault survivors should be given more freedom and privacy, this bill restricts their personal autonomy by limiting their abortion access to 18 weeks gestation. It also maintains the law enforcement reporting requirement in Utah code, although a prior version of the bill went further to require an active police investigation and limited emergency contraception to 72 hours (both of those harmful provisions were removed by the sponsor). Despite these revisions, the new abortion restrictions in H.B. 297 are not trauma informed, not supported by evidence, and could also result in immediate safety risks. In addition, many of the proposed victim services and support elements in this bill are repetitions of existing Utah law, codes, and procedures.
Our take: Overshadowed by the more comprehensive abortion restrictions in H.B. 467, this bill still adds a new abortion restriction for survivors of rape or incest who deserve more freedom and bodily autonomy, not less.
Sponsor: Sen. Michael Kennedy (R)
Jumping on the same bandwagon of other red states, Utah lawmakers debated and passed this bill restricting gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth within the first 10 days of the session. While Utah’s law allows minors with existing diagnosis of gender dysphoria to initiate and continue treatment, it blocks future access to hormone treatment for new minor patients after the effective date of the bill on January 28. It also expands medical malpractice claims against providers who performed gender-affirming care in the past and requires future study regarding the impact of transition related car. While the legislative fight is over, this issue will quickly move to litigation in Utah’s courts.
Our take: Bans on essential health care—from transgender care to reproductive services—are gross impositions on people’s ability to control their own bodies. We will always oppose them.
Sponsor: Rep. Colin Jack (R)
Inspired by the St. George filming location of an episode of the HBO series on drag show performers We’re Here, this bill would have required local government to label drag shows and pride parades in public venues as “adult content.” Besides violating the First Amendment, the whole premise of the law was just silly. After passing the House in a party-line vote, the Senate declined to advance the bill.
Our take: We can be thankful that blatantly unconstitutional message bills like H.B. 329 generally did not pass during this legislative session.
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Stenquist (R)
Introduced at the end of the session, this bill was immediately identified as a copy/paste of Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” law, which limits discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. After meeting with Equality Utah and the State Board of Education, the sponsor decided to pull the bill from consideration.
Our take: Like this bill, most of the anti-diversity and LGBTQ bills introduced in the last days of the session failed to advance because lawmakers were concerned the ensuing debates would pull time away from other legislative priorities.