Step one: Make legal abortions all-but-impossible to obtain:
- In 2005, there were 6 abortion providers in Utah. This represents a 50% increase from 2000, when there were 4 abortion providers.
- In 2005, 93% of Utah counties had no abortion provider. 55% of Utah women lived in these counties. In the West census region, where Utah is located, 18% of women having abortions traveled at least 50 miles, and 5% traveled more than 100 miles.
Step two: Charge women who attempt to obtain illegal abortions with homicide:
The Utah Senate has joined the House in allowing homicide charges against expectant mothers who arrange illegal abortions.
Step three: While you're at it, write the law so broadly that it could apply to any miscarriage:
In addition to criminalizing an intentional attempt to induce a miscarriage or abortion, the bill also creates a standard that could make women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by "reckless" behavior.
Using the legal standard of "reckless behavior" all a district attorney needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she didn't intend to lose the pregnancy. Drink too much alcohol and have a miscarriage? Under the new law such actions could be cause for prosecution.
"This creates a law that makes any pregnant woman who has a miscarriage potentially criminally liable for murder," says Missy Bird, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Utah. Bird says there are no exemptions in the bill for victims of domestic violence or for those who are substance abusers. The standard is so broad, Bird says, "there nothing in the bill to exempt a woman for not wearing her seatbelt who got into a car accident."
Such a standard could even make falling down stairs a prosecutable event, such as the recent case in Iowa where a pregnant woman who fell down the stairs at her home was arrested under the suspicion she was trying to terminate her pregnancy.
DougJ points to the crucial fact:
Miscarriage occurs in about 15-20% of all recognized pregnancies, and usually occurs before the 13th week of pregnancy. The actual percentage of miscarriages is estimated to be as high as 50% of all pregnancies, since many miscarriages occur without the woman ever having known she was pregnant.
At least one of the bill's sponsors is a woman, but nonetheless you have to ask: Do the people who voted for this law even know any women? Because it's easy not to realize how common miscarriage is until you've had friends who were pregnant. But once you've had friends who've been pregnant, you have friends who've had miscarriages. Friends who desperately wanted to be pregnant. Friends on fertility treatment and friends trying to get pregnant before the clock ran out. Also friends who hadn't been trying to get pregnant and maybe hadn't decided how they felt about it. But that doesn't make them criminals.
Maybe TV and movies have done us this disservice, since a convenient miscarriage is the favored way out of having a character choose to terminate a pregnancy. Maybe that's why these legislators want to criminalize miscarriage -- maybe they're just stupid enough to think that, like TV characters, real-life women only have miscarriages right after they get off the phone with the abortion clinic.
Or maybe they just hate women that much:
"For all these years the anti-choice movement has said ‘we want to outlaw abortion, not put women in jail, but what this law says is ‘no, we really want to put women in jail.'"
(Further discussion available in Amplify Your Voice's recommended diary.)