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Utah to Prosecute Women for "Intentional" or "Reckless" Miscarriages

By February 25, 2010

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In a development worthy of note, it seems that the state of Utah has decided to criminalize some miscarriages. According to a report in The Salt Lake Tribune, the bill was intended to create a law under which people could be prosecuted for trying to end their pregnancies without medical supervision, such as a recent case in which teenager paid a man to beat her in the hopes that the beating would cause her to lose her baby. Unfortunately, the language chosen for the bill was that women could be prosecuted for an "intentional, knowing, or reckless act" that led to a pregnancy's termination. Legal abortions performed by a physician were specifically omitted from the bill, as were fetal deaths due to failure to follow medical advice or refusal of C-sections (according to Cleveland Leader).

It's the word "reckless" that's problematic here. I don't see a problem with the original intent of the bill, as it is incredibly risky and dangerous for people to attempt to end a pregnancy without medical supervision, but adding in the word "reckless" the bill opens up a can of worms. According to some interpretations, a woman could be routinely investigated for murder after any miscarriage and might have to document that she did not perform any "reckless" act that could have led to the pregnancy termination. Most miscarriages are no one's fault, but the idea that women should even have to prove their faultlessness is certainly objectionable. It's hard enough dealing with a miscarriage without having to worry that someone's going to blame you for it.

If you live in Utah and have an opinion about this, one way or the other, I would encourage you to contact your elected officials (the bill seems to be on its way to the governor) and make your thoughts known. The text of the bill is available here.

February 27, 2010 at 1:24 am
(1) Melanie says:

The irony is that the Utah State Legislature is currently making budget cuts that will deprive thousands of low-income women access to pre-natal care. The legislature also refused to even talk about a bill that would expand sex education to include more comprehensive information about contraceptives. The legislators literally sat in silence.

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