President Bush on Monday nominated Republican Mike Leavitt to replace Tommy Thompson as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Leavitt is a former Governor of Utah and currently the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Over the course of his tenure as Governor of Utah, Leavitt signed several pieces of legislation restricting women’s right to choose a safe, legal, and accessible abortion. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, Leavitt signed bills into law that imposed a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion, required women to seek counseling before obtaining an abortion that included biased materials, and included “unborn child[ren]” as included under the state’s homicide statute. Leavitt’s administration also defended in court a 1991 law that prohibited abortion except in cases of rape, incest, life endangerment, grave danger to the woman’s health, or serious fetal defects, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. This law was later struck down by federal courts.
“I am strongly pro-life and anti-abortion,” Leavitt said in 1993, according to NARAL. “I believe in the sanctity of life at whatever stage of development that life is in.” In 1997, Leavitt said he wanted Utah to have the “toughest abortion law” in the nation, NARAL reports. In 1982 and 1988, Leavitt served as Senator Orrin Hatch’s campaign manager and chair of his campaign respectively. Hatch, a Republican, is a longtime opponent of abortion rights.