Utah's Women Senators Walk Out As Male Peers Pass Bill Forcing Pregnant Women to Sit Through Ultrasound to Get Abortion

Six women in Utah's Senate, from both sides of the aisle, walked out on their male peers Tuesday, as they passed a bill requiring pregnant women to sit through an ultrasound before being able to undergo an abortion.

House Bill 364 was passed entirely by male senators as their six female colleagues, Democrats Luz Escamilla, Jani Iwamoto, Karen Mayne and Kathleen Riebe and Republicans Deirdre Henderson and Ann Millner walked out on the vote.

According to Escamilla, who tweeted about the incident, the decision to walk out of the Senate was not planned.

"Love my sisters in the Senate," Escamilla said, sharing photos of the six women senators embracing each other after walking out. "A spontaneous decision not planned of sisterhood against the invasive nature of HB 364," she said.

In a separate statement, Henderson, who typically supports anti-abortion legislation, told local outlet 2News that the walkout was a "spontaneous decision to put an exclamation mark on our concerns about the invasive nature of the bill."

While Henderson said she is "very pro-life" and "always" votes for pro-life bills," in the case of HB 364, she is "concerned that we are overstepping with government mandates of medically unnecessary procedures."

Riebe, meanwhile, told Newsweek in a message on Wednesday that she was "glad" the walk out was making the news, "not the unnecessary invasive procedure."

"It was a spontaneous decision to illustrate the point," she said.

Under the bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Christiansen and sponsored in Senate by Curtis Bramble, medical professionals would be required to "display live fetal images" while also describing the images to pregnant women.

Practitioners would also be required to make fetal heartbeats audible, when possible.

The bill provides that pregnant women may choose not to view the images or listen to the audio, but medical professionals would be required to provide written confirmation to women stating that they had complied with the requirements before allowing the abortion procedure to move forward.

Speaking with 2News, Christiansen said he hoped that the bill, if enacted, would lead more women to "choose life."

An ultrasound machine sits next to an exam table in an examination room at Whole Woman's Health of South Bend on June 19, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. Men in Utah's Senate passed a bill seeking to force women undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion. Scott Olson/Getty

He also claimed that the bill was aimed at ensuring "informed consent" when it comes to abortion.

The representative, who is known to hold anti-abortion views, said he believed many women feel they have been given an incomplete picture of the physical and emotional risks of having an abortion.

"The fact that many women who have an ultrasound change their mind is a tremendous indicator...that there's probably not enough information being shared," he said. "Some women are, of course, getting good information, but far too many are not."

Christiansen also said that he disagrees with those who have deemed an ultrasound before abortion medically unnecessary, though it is not clear why. Newsweek has contacted the representative for further comment.

Newsweek has also contacted Escamilla and Henderson for further comment.

Correction 3/11/2020 10:45 a.m. EST: This story was updated to clarify the names and political affiliations of the women who walked out in protest.
This article has also been updated with a statement from Sen. Kathleen Riebe.