Utah is working to implement a cleaver new law that will make it a criminal offense for women to miscarry a pregnancy.
The bill responds to a case in which a Vernal woman allegedly paid a man $150 to beat her and cause miscarriage but could not be charged. The Senate on Thursday approved HB12 on a vote of 24-4, criminalizing a woman’s “intentional, knowing, or reckless act” leading to a pregnancy’s illegal termination. It specifies that a woman cannot be prosecuted for arranging a legal abortion.
The measure now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for final action.
Some Senate Democrats attempted a last-minute amendment to remove the word “reckless” from the list of criminal acts leading to miscarriage. They argued that criminalizing reckless acts leaves open the possibility of prosecutions against domestic violence victims who return to their abusers only to be beaten and lose the child.
“It’s part of the cycle of domestic violence,” said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City.
“I hope none of you ever have to face that situation,” she said after realizing the majority would pass the bill as is, “or have a daughter facing that situation, or a granddaughter.”
But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said the bill doesn’t target victims at all — only those who arrange to terminate their pregnancies illegally.
Now, let’s be clear here, of course this legislation is about ending or severely restricting a woman’s right to abortion. Of course this legislation is about controlling and even hating women (rather than opening up more choices for women’s reproductive health, let’s just make it illegal for them to be desperate!). And of course, the life of a fetus is far more important to many people making laws than the woman’s life is.
But along with the women hating anti-choice violence this law is enacting on women in Utah, this law (which looks as if it is going to pass) *also* has the (perhaps) unintended consequence of particularly targeting poor women of color–and even more pointedly, undocumented women.
Remember that undocumented women are not allowed medicaid or medicare–and even if they were, most states prevent women from using state funds to get abortions. Under the new health legislation being proposed, it would be illegal for undocumented immigrants to even *buy* their own health insurance (much less get it for free or at a reduced cost from the government), and again, even if they did, abortion coverage (even if women want to buy their own) is being written out of the legislation.
So, after making it near impossible and mostly illegal for undocumented (and even documented) women to buy their own health insurance that covers abortions, after making it impossible to get free or reduced cost health insurance that covers abortions–the state of Utah feels it’s important to then criminalize women who don’t have “legal” abortions.
But…what is a “legal” abortion? Is getting advice on what herbs to take from a midwife “legal?” Is taking various medications that many Latinas can get from Mexico and other Latin American countries “legal?” Is a coat hanger “legal?”
Because there seems to be no definition of what equates “legal” written into this legislation, that means any woman anywhere who for whatever reason miscarries–will be subject to criminal charges. And lest you think that prosecutors have ever shown restraint when it comes to pressing criminal charges against women who are making their own *often times very LEGAL* choices about their bodies, please, surf around the National Advocates for Pregnant Women website for a while. This organization of lawyers that defend pregnant women from criminal prosecution, has worked to defend women who have done such things as being pregnant and addicted to various drugs to refusing c-sections to being “uppity” in the birthing room.
It is not a “safe” thing to be a woman who is pregnant. And unfortunately, rather than feeling compassion for a woman who would willingly be beaten so that she doesn’t have a child (and maybe increasing funding for free reproductive health care options), we hate that woman, and do what we can to punish all women who would dare to be as desperate as she was.