I've mentioned before that I had a miscarriage several years ago. Emotionally, the scars lasted for years and years. My poor sister, pregnant again after two recent miscarriages, is holding her breath, hoping that this pregnancy goes all the way to term. For someone hoping for a child, a miscarriage can be a devastating thing.
And now in Utah, un-fricking-believably, it can now be a criminal thing too.
Utah is not a state known for its legislative sanity. This, after all, is a state that recently made headlines for proposing to honor gun manufacturers on Martin Luther King Day and for considering the elimination of 12th grade to cut back on education spending.
Well, it just got a whole lot worse.
Utah just became the first state in the U.S. to criminalize miscarriage and punish women for having or seeking an illegal abortion. Utah's "Criminal Miscarriage" law:
- expands the definition of illegal abortion to include miscarriages
- removes immunity protections for women who have or seek illegal abortions
- treats women as presumptive criminals and leaves them open to criminal prosecution
But even among states that punish illegal abortions, this "Criminal Miscarriage" law is unique. It not only punishes individuals who perform illegal procedures; it punishes women.
This legislation was prompted by the case of a 7 month pregnant 17 year old girl who paid a man $150 to beat her until it caused a miscarriage, but make no mistake, this is all about making it impossible to have an abortion, and controlling women through their reproductive options. But don't write off that prosecuting women for miscarriages is some fantastical dystopian ravings of an ultra-liberal, think again:
So, after making it near impossible and mostly illegal for undocumented (and even documented) women to buy their own health insurance that covers abortions, after making it impossible to get free or reduced cost health insurance that covers abortions–the state of Utah feels it’s important to then criminalize women who don’t have “legal” abortions.
But…what is a “legal” abortion? Is getting advice on what herbs to take from a midwife “legal?” Is taking various medications that many Latinas can get from Mexico and other Latin American countries “legal?” Is a coat hanger “legal?”
Because there seems to be no definition of what equates “legal” written into this legislation, that means any woman anywhere who for whatever reason miscarries–will be subject to criminal charges. And lest you think that prosecutors have ever shown restraint when it comes to pressing criminal charges against women who are making their own *often times very LEGAL* choices about their bodies, please, surf around the National Advocates for Pregnant Women website for a while. This organization of lawyers that defend pregnant women from criminal prosecution, has worked to defend women who have done such things as being pregnant and addicted to various drugs to refusing c-sections to being “uppity” in the birthing room.
Unbelievable. The legislation is written so loosely that any district attorney could prosecute any woman for "reckless behavior" that results in losing a pregnancy. Drinking too much, maybe. How about not wearing a seatbelt? Or not taking pre-natal vitamins/getting pre-natal care? Where does it end? I gotta ask: when will we ever stop treating everyone else except rich, white men as second class citizens?