By Carol van Strum | Astrology notes by Eric are in Comment #25
On Monday, March 8, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law a bill making girls and women who miscarry criminally liable for murder when their miscarriages are caused by “intentional or knowing acts.” The governor signed the bill after vetoing its original version, which also included “reckless” acts; the word reckless was deleted from the signed version, which in its entirety is a catalog of multiple negatives:
“A woman is not guilty of criminal homicide of her own unborn child if the death of her unborn child…is not caused by an intentional or knowing act of the woman.” (The only exception specified is that “a woman is not criminally liable for seeking to obtain, or obtaining, an abortion that is permitted by law.”) This language may seem harmless enough. Yet in fact, any miscarriage, besides a legal abortion, could be put on trial, and whether the act was “intentional or knowing” would be up to the jury to decide. The law is written so that it presumes the woman is guilty and must prove that she is not guilty — in itself a violation of the Constitutional right of presumed innocence.
Both versions of the bill are extremely controversial, and removal of the word reckless cured none of its defects. Most notably, the vague language of the law criminalizes any behavior that might contribute to miscarriage, potentially making pregnancy — or even sex itself — a criminal act, since up to 20 percent of pregnancies normally end in miscarriage. This is grief enough, without facing the risk of prosecution for homicide.
“What we’re doing is driving women underground and preventing them from getting health care and prenatal care,” says Melissa Bird of Planned Parenthood, warning that women and girls most in need of care will avoid it for fear of prosecution.
“What happens to women who are in abusive relationships?” she asks. “What happens if a woman threatens to leave the abuser, falls down the stairs and loses the baby? What if the abuser beats the woman and causes a miscarriage? Could he turn her in? Who would the prosecutor believe? What happens if a drug addict who’s trying to get clean loses her baby? Will she be brought up on murder charges?”
Presumably, this law would cover the variety of herbal treatments available, which do anything from prevent implantation of the fetus to induce miscarriage; and it would cover home abortion treatments such as menstrual extraction.
Most appalling is the law’s knowing and intentional violation of equal protection rights. The concept of ‘equal protection under the law’, guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, means that all citizens have the same rights. Under the Utah legislation’s broad language, a woman can be charged with murder who miscarries after intentionally walking out of her house and being exposed to a feto-toxic herbicide applied by her landlord or the local road crew — but neither the applicators nor the manufactures of the feto-toxic chemical would face similar charges.
“For all these years, the anti-choice movement has said ‘we want to outlaw abortion, not put women in jail,’ said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, “but what this law says is, ‘no, we really want to put women in jail’.”