kindelling (kindelling) wrote,

Utah Criminalizes Certain Miscarriages

Via [info]xsnickerzzx on ontd_political

Recently, the Utah House and Senate passed a bill that would criminalize miscarriages in certain situations for women.  The bill is an amendment to Utah's current criminal statute that provides for a criminal homicide charge when a woman obtains an illegal abortion.  The amendment adds that a woman can also be charged with criminal homicide if she causes a miscarriage with "reckless" behavior.

The bill does not purport to affect legal abortions. What it does is criminalize actions that a woman may take to induce a miscarriage, or steps to procure an abortion outside the confines of the law.

The incident that spurred this change was one in which a pregnant 17-year-old paid a man $150 to beat her in order to cause a miscarriage.  The child was born later and given up for adoption, but the mother was charged with attempted murder. The charges had to be dropped because the Utah law at the time did not allow for prosecution under these circumstances. 

As usual, the state is busy writing ridiculous laws that will affect millions of people because of one bizarre incident. The state cannot seem to grasp the idea that isolated incidents do not represent the big picture, and that sweeping, broad laws, have negative effects that far outweigh the the negative effects of the original catalyst event.

This amendment can have broad and horrifying applications. Under the "reckless behavior" provision, a prosecutor need only show that the woman acted in a reckless manner that could have caused a miscarriage. Thus, it is possible that pregnant alcoholics could be charged with criminal homicide if they miscarry because of drinking. 

News articles have placed a lot of focus on the "reckless" language. However, a close reading of the bill seems to indicate that the law sweeps even more broadly - 

"1) (a) A person commits criminal homicide if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, with criminal negligence, or acting with a mental state otherwise specified in the statute defining the offense, causes the death of another human being, including an unborn child at any stage of its development."

Thus, even criminal negligence, which is below the standard of "recklessness" could warrant a homicide charge.  A pregnant woman who miscarries because of drug problems, or even playing contact sports could arguably meet these requirements and be prosecuted from criminal homicide.

Common miscarriages could warrant criminal proceedings if accompanying circumstances are slightly suspicious.
Indeed, a pregnant woman who is a victim of domestic violence or other violent attack could be found to have been "negligent" or "reckless," if there is the slightest suspicion that she did not want to carry the fetus to term.

Margaret Dayton, R-Orem claims the bill does not target victims of domestic violence, but only those that terminate their pregnancies illegally. However it is unclear how she defends this position. Ultimately, it is irrelevant what slimy politicians like Margaret Dayton think the bill targets; what is important is what the effects will be and what the bill actually has the potential to do.

There is no indication that there are any exceptions, specifications, or clarifications as to violent attacks or domestic violence written into the bill.  Margaret Dayton can think whatever she wants and argue all day about what the bill is "targeted" to do - but the reality is, intentions are irrelevant.

People's lives and civil rights are not, and should not be a matter of academic exercise, or an experimental political playground for oppressive politicians.

Tags: abortion, feminism, wrong
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