Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Miscarriage is Murder in Utah

We have all heard of the numerous personhood initiatives that have been popping up all over the country; the argument that fetus' deserve full constitutional rights, the same as all Americans. I never thought I would see the day when something more radical, ridiculous and offensive (and to be honest...laughable) than the personhood initiatives...yet here we are.

The state legislature in Utah has actually passed a bill attempting to outlaw miscarriages. Let me rephrase. If you experience a miscarriage, which happens to be the result of 18-20% of all pregnancies, you can be charged with murder. The law, proposed by Sen. Margaret Dayton (a woman, i know, my heart bleeds) makes it possible for a woman to be charged with homicide and sentenced with up to life in prison if the miscarriage was determined to be the result of an "intentional, knowing, or reckless act" to end the pregnancy; every miscarriage is a potential homicide. (Jezebel)

The intent of this legislation is to hold accountable women who attempt or succeed at an "illegal abortion;" illegal abortion meaning the forced termination of a pregnancy by, for example, intentionally subjecting oneself to physical or bodily harm in attempt to force a miscarriage. While, yes, there have been cases similar to the one described, and no, that is not acceptable or appropriate behavior, the language of the law does not clearly explain its intent or limitations and creates a dangerous potential for abuse by anti-choicers.

For example, the term "reckless" has broad and potentially devastating implications, as if this law couldn't be described that way already. The term was added in a reaction to a case in which a woman hired a man to beat her to force a miscarriage, a case in which she could not be held accountable. Although not its intention, the use of this term opens up this law to apply to pregnant victims of domestic violence; if a pregnant woman chooses to stay in a relationship with a violent partner, and her pregnancy is prematurely terminated as the result of repeated abuse, she can be legally charged with homicide and serve up to life in prison (The Salt Lake Tribune). This is right on par with considering domestic violence a pre-existing condition.

The implications of this legislation moves far beyond the inclusion of the term "reckless," but this stands as one example of how the intentions of this law only skim the surface of its potential.

Although I disagree strongly with the anti-choice movement, I can at the very least respect their opinion (or at least their right to have one,);abortion and choice are controversial issues and there will always be those who disagree with me. However, this law takes anti-choice to a new level.

To assert that a miscarriage is not only a forced abortion, but is considered murder, is ludicrous and an opinion that does not only deserve respect but does not even deserve to be heard, let alone legitimized through state legislation.

The Anti-choice movement claims that their message and their goals keep women in mind and are 'empowering' for women of all ages (*cough* Sarah Palin). But jailing women for having a miscarriage is not only dis-empowering, but it is a clear and direct attack on women.

The law now goes to Governor Gary Herbert for final action

photocredit: debaird on Flickr

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