Utah Criminalizes Illegal Abortion Charging Criminal Homicide.

After removing the word “reckless,” this appalling bill has been signed by Governer Gary Herbert in Utah. The language of the bill was edited but originally proposed that “reckless and unintentional” death of a fetus would be criminalized, as in, a miscarriage.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law Monday a bill that would allow a woman who arranges an illegal abortion to be charged with criminal homicide.
The new law is in response to a case last year where a 17-year-old pregnant girl paid a man $150 to beat her in hopes of inducing a miscarriage. A judge ruled there was no law on Utah’s books allowing the mother to be charged with a crime.

This language isn’t really much better. Instead of recognizing that it could only be the most oppressive circumstances that would lead a young woman to have someone beat her in hopes of inducing a miscarriage, and therefore creating legislation that protects young women, they legislate against women.

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    The legality of this law is going to be challenged in court. It’s too sweeping not to be. One wonders how far it will go and what the ultimate ruling will be.

  • MLEmac28

    Isn’t illegal abortion already criminalized? Hence it being called “illegal.”

  • cattrack2

    Hey CK with the “reckless” language removed why is it too sweeping? I don’t understand why its a over broad if its only criminalizing behavior which is already illegal. Could you elaborate? Are there any practical impacts here, or is this a ‘slippery slope’ argument? I feel like without knowing more about this girl’s specific circumstances, calling foul here is premature. My 2 cents.

  • Dawn.

    Since illegal abortion is already, obviously, illegal, this law looks like a thinly veiled attempt to police and punish women for controlling their own bodies.
    Even after omitting the “reckless” descriptive, it can still be skewed to encompasses a large variety of behaviors and actions. Like: a woman who is struggling with a drug addiction and has a miscarriage being charged with criminal homicide, or desperate underage young women, like in the “inspirational” case. Even a woman who eats sushi and has a miscarriage could possibly be charged, because that could be a “knowing” action to a particular law enforcement official or judge. Laws are out of legislators hands and are up to law enforcement and judges’ interpretations at that point, right? So this could be a big, big clusterfuck.

  • puckalish

    the information around this bill is definitely hard to tear through, but the bill itself only adds to this and can be interpreted in wildly different (some quite sweeping, others less so) ways…
    for example, the bill states:
    “Except as provided in Subsections (3) and (4), a person commits criminal homicide if [he] the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, with criminal negligence, or acting with a mental state otherwise specified in the statute defining the offense, causes the death of another human being, including an unborn child at any stage of its development.”
    but subsection (3) states:
    “(4) A woman is not guilty of criminal homicide of her own unborn child if the death of her unborn child:
    (a) is caused by a criminally negligent act or reckless act of the woman; and
    (b) is not caused by an intentional or knowing act of the woman.”
    So, it’s not murder if a woman has a miscarriage as a result of poor nutrition, say, unless the prosecution can convince a jury that she “knew” poor nutrition or lack of prenatal care could lead to a miscarriage and that she was pregnant. I’m sure intent will be hard to prove, but if Utah’s anything like NY, skillful (A)DAs will be able to get a good number women to plea out to lesser charges even when they’ve done nothing actually criminal (this is how a great deal of youth establish criminal records in this fine city).
    Never mind points such as the addiction issue Dawn brought up. People could easily be brought up on charges related to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
    Again, this seems so thoroughly like a rehash, with a different emphasis, of the South Carolina cases regarding incarcerated mothers struggling with addiction – and I can imagine the outcomes will be remarkably similar (high-needs women will be driven further from the very support systems which could help them).

  • makomk

    Apparently, laws generally only penalize the person carrying out the abortion, not the woman receiving it.

  • ShyFoxie

    Uh, so what happens if I KNOW I’m clumsy and decide to use the stairs anyway?
    I take in no one in the Utah state legislature thinks that simply making birth control and safe, legal abortion more accessible to minors would prevent this from happening? But I guess that would make too much sense…

  • allegra

    Is this being challenged? Because it’s clearly based on fetal personhood. You can only commit “homicide” against an actual person with full human rights.
    I know we have laws standing like the double-homicide charge for killing a pregnant woman, but that’s clearly different; murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women, which would indicate that men target their pregnant partners in domestic-violence incidents because they don’t want the baby, or it’s not their baby, or whatever other insane crap they think. The double homicide is at least partly an issue of protecting pregnant women. This is not.

  • hfs

    Protecting women is neither the point of the “double-homicide” laws nor these laws. They are similar in that both are aimed at protecting the fetus, which in the view of the lawmakers, deserves more protection than the woman whose body it inhabits. Neither kind of law is OK, in my opinion.

  • cattrack2

    Thanks Puckalish for the 411…If they’ve maintained language which creates a crime out of everyday behavior then I’d have to agree that its a bad bill…this language since it still has the word “reckless” in it seems like an older version–at least I hope so.

  • Pantheon

    I believe there’s a difference between illegal and criminal, like when they talk about de-criminalizing marijuana for example. But I’m not clear on the details. Maybe getting a citation like a ticket vs getting arrested?

  • allegra

    Right. Because, I thought, initially, abortions were made illegal if carried out by hacks and quacks and people with no expertise, presumably because they could harm the woman. So it was supposedly to “protect the woman,” to prevent frauds from taking money from desperate women and then killing them. Making “unsafe” abortions illegal would legitimate “real” medical doctors who performed abortions, and consolidate their power, and discredit everyone else. Which is a move that’s been carried out many times in the history of medicine, not always with positive consequences (i.e., the medicalization of pregnancy put male doctors in charge of delivering babies, and pushed out traditional midwives and ignored their expertise).
    But this Utah law throws the parts about protecting women, which are pretty important parts, into the garbage.

  • allegra

    I don’t care for the double-homicide law, either, but I don’t think one can deny that the very state of pregnancy is obviously some motivator for violence in many cases, and that should be addressed.

  • Nicole

    As far as I know (anyone correct me if I’m wrong) the difference between criminal vs. illegal is this: Let’s say pot were decriminalized, but not legalized. That would mean that it is still illegal to buy, sell, have, and smoke pot. It is an illegal substance that cannot be exchanged for currency or anything else, it cannot be brought into the country, and it cannot be consumed by people.
    However, it would not be a criminal offense. So, if a person were caught smoking a joint, they’d have that joint taken away from them, but they wouldn’t get arrested and they wouldn’t get a criminal record. They would just lose the joint and then the situation would be done.
    As far as I know, marijuana de-criminalization as it’s usually proposed would still make selling pot a criminal offense, but smoking it and holding it in small quantities (usually a few grams or so) would no longer be an act that would give you a criminal record. You’d get it taken away but you’d get off scot-free.
    So, an abortion that is “illegal” but not criminal is, I’m guessing, one wherein the woman seeking/getting the abortion is doing something that is against the law, but she will not get a criminal record for the offense. She’ll be forced to stop, if she gets caught in the middle of it, but she won’t go to jail or anything.
    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong but I think that’s the jist of it.

  • Nicole

    Indeed it should be addressed, but that’s not what the double-homicide law is doing. The double-homicide law exists because the lives of the fetuses are deemed just as worthy as protection as the lives of the pregnant women, which is both insulting to pregnant women and logistically fallible since abortion is supposed to be legal.
    A law that truly addresses the disproportionate levels of violence against pregnant women would be one that recognized these acts as hate crimes against pregnant women or something more along those lines. The point should be to recognize the woman as the victim, and not the fetus; otherwise these double-homicide laws actually devalue the seriousness of this particular type of violence by suggesting the act of hurting the woman is simply not bad enough to sufficiently prosecute the perpetrator.