Utah's Criminal Homicide and Abortion Revision

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Utah's Criminal Homicide and Abortion Revision

Post  Jessamine Blake on Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:33 am

I don't want to start a debate about abortion per se, but this recently passed law in Utah is just the teensiest bit terrifying. And when I say that, I mean that as a woman I never want to step foot in the state:

The Criminal Homicide and Abortion Amendment (H.B. 12)

The Revised Bill, H.B. 462 (signed into law earlier this year)

What made the original bill so problematic was the vagueness of terms that would potentially allow prosecutors to try women based on perceptions of their intentions, knowledge, or "reckless" behavior. The first two sound dangerously like attempting to prosecute women for what they think and/or feel about their pregnancies. The last one just begs so many questions: who defines what is reckless behavior for a pregnant woman? Driving without a seat belt? Wine at dinner? Dancing in high heels? Contact sports? Lifting objects over a certain weight limit? Walking on icy sidewalks in shoes without tread? Although Carl Wimmer, the bill's chief sponsor, blatantly denied that the bill would be used to target women in such situations, he did admit that it was partially intended to target pregnant women with drug and alcohol problems...and if you notice, automobile homicide is one of the many provisions in the original bill that allows women to be prosecuted.

The second version of the bill removed the term "reckless" and protected women against things like being prosecuted for failing to follow medical advice. Still, is H.B. 462 an invasion of privacy? I personally worry that this new law--and other such fetal homicide laws (on the books in 38 states)--treat pregnant women less as individuals and more as baby incubators. On the one hand, some people argue that babies deserve rights in the womb, but the question those people don't seem to address is how to do this without reducing the rights of the mothers to the extent that they are less protected under the law than their children. Though traditionally pregnant women are treated as more fragile, more vulnerable, and less consequential as individuals (how many people feel comfortable touching pregnant women's bellies without permission, or speaking to their stomachs instead of to their faces?), do we really want laws that reinforce this?

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"[These]...settlers are churlish types who are accustomed to live apart from each other, as neither fathers nor sons associate with each other."
--Fermín de Mendinueta, Governor of the New Mexico Territory, c. 1776.
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Jessamine Blake
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