Monday, March 01, 2010

Utah Considers Law Criminalizing Abortions by Mother

The legislation would imprison woman intent on murdering her unborn child, unless killing is performed within abortion clinic

UPDATE 3/9/10: Governor signs bill into law

-- From "Utah Bill Would Criminalize Illegal Abortions" by Kirk Johnson, New York Times 2/28/10

If [Utah State House Bill 12] is signed into law by Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, who has said he agrees generally with its goals but is still studying the particulars, Utah would still allow legal abortions performed by a doctor. But it would go further than any other state, several legal experts said, in mapping out a much murkier question: when is a woman criminally liable for trying to end a pregnancy through other means or self-infliction?

But critics say legislation . . . could open up a vast frontier around the question of intent and responsibility and give local prosecutors huge new powers to inquire about a woman’s intentions toward her unborn child.

For example, if a pregnant woman gets into a vehicle, goes on a wild ride way over the speed limit without wearing a seatbelt and crashes and the fetus is killed, is she a reckless driver? Or is she a reckless mother-to-be who criminally ignored the safety of her fetus?

Under the bill, a woman guilty of criminal homicide of her fetus could be punished by up to life in prison.

Behavior by a mother that might harm but not kill her fetus, including use of alcohol or tobacco, would not be covered by the bill [but] a mother who killed her fetus by taking illegal drugs might conceivably be charged.

Just last month in Iowa, for example, a pregnant woman who fell down the stairs at home confided to emergency workers that she was not sure she really wanted to have her child. Though the woman did not immediately miscarry from the fall, she was arrested anyway under a state law that makes it a criminal act to harm a fetus. She was released after two days in jail, and the charges were dropped.

Some women’s advocacy groups say the bill simply codifies what many states are already doing, using existing laws about the unborn to prosecute apparently errant mothers.

At least 38 states have laws against fetal homicide, generally intended to create additional penalties when a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed. And two states, Delaware and New York, also have laws specifically making self-abortion a crime. Both laws were passed before the United States Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.