Utah Bill Criminalizes Miscarrage
Last week, the Utah House and Senate passed a bill that would make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage, and would in most instances make induced abortion a crime. The bill still needs the signature of the governor to be signed into law, but already it is causing concern across the United States.
The bill amends Utah's criminal statute to allow the state go charge a woman with criminal homicide for inducing a miscarriage or obtaining an illegal abortion. The case on which the bill was based was one in which a 17-year-old girl who was seven months pregnant paid a man $150 to beat her in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. The gave birth and later gave the child up for adoption, but was initially charged with attempted murder. The charges, however, were dropped because under Utah law at the time, a woman could not be prosecuted for attempting to arrange an abortion, whether it was lawful or unlawful. The bill recently passed by Utah legislature would change that.
The bill does not affect legally obtained abortions, but it does criminalize the actions taken by a woman to induce a miscarriage or an abortion outside a doctor's care. Penalties range up to life in prison.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the bill is a standard that could make women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by so-called "reckless" behavior. Under the "reckless behavior" standard, an attorney only needs to show that the woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she did not intend to lose the pregnancy. Under this law, if a woman drinks too much and has a miscarriage, she could face prosecution.
Many states have fetal homicide laws, most of which apply only in the third trimester. Utah's bill, however, would apply through the entire duration of a woman's pregnancy. Even common first trimester miscarriages could trigger a murder trial.
The bill does exempt from prosecution fetal deaths due to failure to follow medical advice, accept treatment, or refuse a cesarean section.
Utah Decides to Tone Down "Miscarriage Bill", But Some Miscarriages Would Still be a Felony