Utah House and Senate pass bill that would criminalize miscarriage

This isn’t good, folks. A bill passed by the House and Senate in Utah this week could make it a crime to have a miscarriage, with penalties up to life in prison. RH Reality Check reports:

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.

Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women tells RH that while other states have feticide laws specified to prosecute third-party attackers, directing it at the woman will have severe repercussions. It could create cases where women are prosecuted for having an unintentional miscarriage if there is any indication of “reckless behavior,” like drink alcohol and miscarry, or do any number of other things that could be deemed “reckless.” Next thing you know, you’re sentenced to time in prison for criminal homicide.
The bill awaits the governor’s signature. If you live in Utah, contact him and let him know just how dangerous this bill is. Amplify also has a community post with more ways to take action.

Join the Conversation

  • gab

    This is terrible! Why the hell would anyone think this is a good idea?!

  • vegkitty

    Oh for fuck’s sake.
    Do they not realize that this bill would set a precedent for making an unintentional miscarriage involuntary manslaughter?
    I need to go look at cute puppies. This is too upsetting.

  • Mollie

    I wonder if that man she paid faced any charges.
    As my girlfriend so eloquently put it, “Why can’t they just leave women alone?”

  • cato

    Second that. Independent of everything else in this article – they charged a 17-year-old for an act of sheer despair, when a (grown-up?) man took $150 from her to beat her to induce a miscarriage?

  • Av0gadro

    As a woman who eats sushi while pregnant, I’m terrified of rules like this. Can you imagine, in those shell-shocked, shattered days after you’ve had a miscarriage or been told you will have one, having to go down to a police station to swear you didn’t do it on purpose?

  • paperispatient

    On a sort-of-related note, for the past few days I’ve been seeing ads for “pro-life checks” and for what I’m inferring is a crisis pregnancy center here on Feministing. I know you all don’t directly control the ad content, but I thought you’d like to know. :)

  • rebekah

    Well I guess that means that all of us women who can’t have kids are going to go to prison too? Since we must be permanently causing things to happen for us to “miscarry”. Don’t these fuckers realize that womens’ bodies abort fetuses all the time on their own for no apparent reason?

  • kissmymango

    Well, it seems pretty clear that women should get the fuck out of Utah.

  • cattrack2

    People acting out of ‘sheer despair’ can still do very wrong things. Seems to me that the outrage in the bill is that they include “recklessness” as an element of the crime when, as everyone has noted, recklessness is entirely subjective. Is working while pregnant reckless? Eating sushi? Cooking dinner? Not staying in bed 247?
    They need to limit this to the case at hand: Preventing intentional miscarriages by untrained medical personnel. Anything else criminalizes everyday behavior.

  • s mandisa

    sad to say: this is an example of governmental blame and state-induced reproductive violence. this is terrifying. as if its not painful to lose your baby, but to possibly face criminal charges? unspeakable.
    and yes, the law TECHNICALLY says inducing a miscarriage or unlawful abortion, but what criteria will determine that? lets keep in mind that for many of us our parenting is already criminalized and policed, so for immigrants, mothers of color, low-income mothers this will likely have a more devastating affect. lets see how many other states might follow this trend….

  • Dawn.

    So women can potentially get put in prison now for despair and desperation?? And woman can potentially get put in prison now for a miscarriage?? I mean, REALLY?? I guess the warm cuddly feeling they get out of controlling, shaming, and punishing women is too awesome to pass up.
    All I can really manage to say is: FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU UTAH. YOU MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLES.

  • becca

    I had a miscarriage in Oct. and I can’t even begin to imagine having to defend myself, even now. My husband and I had sex once that month (he was away on business) and I was floored when I realized I was pregnant! Before I took that test I colored my hair, drank wine and maybe even took over the counter drugs! (no I don’t feel any guilt i never did. I always understood that something was just very wrong with the fetus and better at 7 weeks than a still born) Would I be charged? Would I go to jail for being reckless? That is scary!

  • allegra

    Is there more information on which organizations or political factions are pushing this? Is this actually being pushed by the pro-life camp? Or just plain religious camps? Or what?
    Also, I guess Utah clearly has no qualms about punishing the women themselves who seek out abortions. As has been discussed here before, many pro-lifers just want to dump the punishment on the doctors and equivocate when it comes to punishing the woman. At least the douches are being open that they believe pregnant women’s bodies should be owned by the state.
    And, really, why does it seem like only anti-woman fuck-ups are ever elected to the legislature?

  • Fairbetty

    The heartbreaking part to me about this is the girl that paid a man $150 to BEAT HER UP to induce a miscarriage… Call me crazy, but that seems like a pretty desperate act, likely attempted because she has been conditioned to believe that abortion is evil and this was her only ‘reasonable’ recourse… the only way that she could separate herself from an unwanted pregnancy. Terrifying.
    And so the Utah legislative body tightens reproductive restrictions… Ummmm aren’t the restrictions part of the problem here??? If abortion was legal and offered as an acceptable and affordable option…
    Gah! But I am preaching to the choir, I fear…

  • IAmGopherrr

    I like how they punish the girl after they instituted parental consent laws. What do they expect!!!! They make the problems and then provide more problems!!!

  • IAmGopherrr

    I dont think people realize that this is what you get when you institute parental consent laws. Utah has one in place. I mean, disallowing her the option early on induced her to take desperate measures. I feel sorry for the poor girl.

  • sophia b

    Not that this law isn’t bad enough, but as it applies to the whole pregnancy, does it let you off if you don’t know you’re pregnant? Or are all sexually active women supposed to not drink, take any sort of drugs, engage in very active sports, etc?

  • IAmGopherrr

    They need to ask WHY a female would go through an untrained person, not prosecute her. In this case its not hard to conclude the parental notification laws probably had something to do with it. No woman would choose a third trimester abortion over a 1st trimester one. The laws induced the desperation.

  • SarahSimone

    Just one more example of when “pro-life” really means “anti-women”.
    Who exactly is going to determine what counts as “reckless”? Will it mean smoking and drinking alcohol? Maybe driving a car? Maybe getting out of bed at all during your pregnancy?
    Next it will be illegal to even get your period. How DARE us women not be getting pregnant every time we’ve got the chance. I mean thats why your period is so bloody right? Cuz it’s MURDER.

  • Black Cherry

    I was thinking the same thing.
    Next thing they’ll make illegal is puberty.

  • Jennifer

    Can someone link me a news article or something on this bill? All I can find are blogs on it and I need a “source” source for something…

  • Posed by Models

    I just don’t understand how this is even constitutional. Are there any law buffs who can explain how a woman can be charged for murder over a miscarriage if fetal personhood isn’t established in federal law? How is intentional miscarriage murder and legal abortion not? This makes no sense, and does a morbidly wonderful job of demonstrating the idea that women are just vessels for babies. Ugh.

  • IAmGopherrr

    ” How DARE us women not be getting pregnant every time we’ve got the chance. I mean thats why your period is so bloody right? Cuz it’s MURDER”
    LOL! I’m sure some ab only curriculum actually says this.

  • linecaro.wordpress.com

    If you click on the linked Amplify article in the post, it links to the Utah State Legislature website gloryholeness.

  • rebekah

    I’ll do you one better, here is the actual piece of legislation
    http://le.utah.gov/~2010/bills/hbillint/hb0012.htm