Utah Bill Criminalizes Miscarriage

From RH Reality Check:

A bill passed by the Utah House and Senate this week and waiting for the governor’s signature, will make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage, and make induced abortion a crime in some instances.

According Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, what makes Utah’s proposed law unique is that it is specifically designed to be punitive toward pregnant women, not those who might assist or cause an illegal abortion or unintended miscarriage.

The bill passed by legislators amends Utah’s criminal statute to allow the state to charge a woman with criminal homicide for inducing a miscarriage or obtaining an illegal abortion. The basis for the law was a recent case 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. Although the girl gave birth to a baby later given up for adoption, she was initially charged with attempted murder. However the charges were dropped because, at the time, under Utah state law a woman could not be prosecuted for attempting to arrange an abortion, lawful or unlawful.

The bill passed by the Utah legislature would change that. While the bill does not affect legally obtained abortions, it criminalizes any actions taken by women to induce a miscarriage or abortion outside of a doctor’s care, with penalties including up to life in prison.

And here’s the real kicker:

Using the legal standard of “reckless behavior” all a district attorney needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she didn’t intend to lose the pregnancy. Drink too much alcohol and have a miscarriage? Under the new law such actions could be cause for prosecution.

“This creates a law that makes any pregnant woman who has a miscarriage potentially criminally liable for murder,” says Missy Bird, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Utah. Bird says there are no exemptions in the bill for victims of domestic violence or for those who are substance abusers. The standard is so broad, Bird says, “there nothing in the bill to exempt a woman for not wearing her seatbelt who got into a car accident.”

(via Slog)


  1. Hell, with a law that ass-backwards, I’m sure there will be a case where it’s found that having left the house at all is deemed “reckless” After all, pregnant women should be bedridden, not out doing “shopping” or “Yoga”.

  2. “The standard is so broad, Bird says, “there nothing in the bill to exempt a woman for not wearing her seatbelt who got into a car accident.””
    Is this really the shining example of motherhood they are trying to protect? It sounds like planned parenthood is really worried about protecting mothers who drink too much and get into car accidents without seatbelts. Surely there are better reasons to oppose this legislation.

    1. It’s not just about protecting what should be common sense, it’s how far will they go in the interpretation of this law. There’s “no exemption for domestic abuse”. What about the woman who accidently trips over her kids toys and falls down the stairs? What about the woman who has a history of reproductive problems, but really wants a kid and knows miscarriage is a major risk? What about the woman who DOES wear a seatbelt, but still miscarries in a car accident? What about the woman who doesn’t know they’re pregnant (trying or not) but spontaneously miscarriages (a common natural occurance)? What about the woman who when she finds out she’s carrying a girl is attacked by her husband for not producing a boy, and miscarries (recently went to court here in NZ)? What about the woman who did everything right, ate what she was told, didn’t touch a drop, was a fucking saint and barely moved for months on end…but still miscarried?

      How far does it go? What these misogynist a-holes are telling us is “all your uteri belong to us”.

      1. I’m not disagreeing with you, but those are not the examples they used. I don’t think this is the intent of the law, but it should be better worded to only apply to those who intentionally and recklessly endanger their fetus. I know of someone who intentionally drank and punched herself in the stomach to cause a miscarriage, and I think there should be consequences for such sickening actions. If you can go to jail for abusing dogs, you should definitely go to jail for abusing a human life.

  3. Fish – huh, where did the “reply” click go…oh well, carrying on…

    For just such an example of “intention of the law”: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/02/19/utah-passes-bill-that-charges-women-for-illegal-abortion-or-miscarriage
    “Such a standard could even make falling down stairs a prosecutable event, such as the recent case in Iowa where a pregnant woman who fell down the stairs at her home was arrested under the suspicion she was trying to terminate her pregnancy.”

    Prosecution is NOT what is needed. Better social services, access to health care, and sex education is the solution. Why would a woman be so desperate enough to cause a miscarriage? Because she doesn’t have adequate support from family/partner, has been shamed by society, or maybe doesn’t know how to get an abortion.

    Start at the beginning of a problem, not the end.

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