Don’t Go Outside… You Might Break the Baby

A couple of days ago, I made a post about Nicaragua’s abortion laws and their – ahem – unfortunate consequences.  However, it would appear that the atmosphere that generated them is a model of liberalism in comparison to the atmosphere further north.  I have in mind here Utah’s Criminal Homicide and Abortion Amendments (HB12), recently passed by both houses of the State’s legislature.

According to the preamble,

This bill amends provisions of the Utah Criminal Code to describe the difference between abortion and criminal homicide of an unborn child and to remove prohibitions against prosecution of a woman for killing an unborn child or committing criminal homicide of an unborn child.

Fair enough, as far as it goes. Not great, but not egregious.  The gloss, though, is trickier.

This Bill provides that, for aggravated murder, the aggravating factor of the victim being under the age of 14 years does not apply to the homicide of an unborn child; provides that a person is not guilty of criminal homicide of an unborn child if the sole reason for the death of the unborn child is that the person refused to consent to medical treatment or a cesarean section or failed to follow medical advice; provides that a woman is not guilty of criminal homicide of her own unborn child if the death of her unborn child:

is caused by a criminally negligent act of the woman;

and is not caused by an intentional, knowing, or reckless act of the woman…

Look again at those last 13 words: a woman is not guilty of homicide if the death of the foetus

is not caused by an intentional, knowing, or reckless act of the woman.

Which seems to indicate that she may be guilty of homicide if it’s felt that the foetus’ death was caused by recklessness.  The difficulty here is that “reckless” is an awfully big word.  Just about anything could count as reckless.  Helpfully, Republican State Representative State Rep. Carl Wimmer has offered some guidance: the bill

focuses on “intentional, knowing or reckless” acts and exempts women who use alcohol or tobacco during a pregnancy.

However, as was pointed out in the Independent on Sunday, this still leaves a lot that is not exempted:

Some say this could include drinking one glass of wine too many, walking on an icy pavement or skiing.

Or – let’s face it – going outside at all.  If you live near a busy road, or drive, or do things like that, you knowingly participate in an activity that increases the risk to your foetus.  That looks potentially reckless.  It would, I guess, require a court case to settle whether going out when it’s icy really does count as reckless – but that still leaves two points.  First, there’s something perverse about an assurance that smoking while pregnant is OK when there’s no assurance that going outside is as well.  Second, as a couple of commentators have noted, the structure of the bill is such as to mean that every miscarriage is seen as suspicious.  Here’s Dan Savage, for example:

If every miscarriage is a potential homicide, how does Utah avoid launching a criminal investigation every time a woman has a miscarriage? And women have a lot of miscarriages: one in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage. And how is Utah supposed to know when a pregnant woman has had a miscarriage? You’re going to have to create some sort of pregnancy registry to keep track of all those fetuses, Utah. Perhaps you could start issuing “conception certificates” to women who get pregnant? And then, if there isn’t a baby within nine months of the issuance of a conception certificate, the woman could be hauled in for questioning and she could be indicted for criminal homicide if it’s determined that she intentionally or accidentally induced a miscarriage. Of course, lots of women miscarry before they even realize their pregnant… so Utah will have to pass another law, one that compels all sexually active women—actually, let’s just say all women, Utah, since some sexually active women claim they’re chaste—to come in for mandatory monthly pregnancy tests…

Christian Munthe makes a comparable point.

BUT, I hear you say, surely no sane agency would seriously consider prosecuting a woman for homicide after an abortion?  No sane agency would even investigate her, would it?

*Ahem*

[Last month, Christine] Taylor became light-headed and fell down a flight of stairs in her home. Paramedics rushed to the scene and ultimately declared her healthy. However, since she was pregnant with her third child at the time, Taylor thought it would be best to be seen at the local ER to make sure her fetus was unharmed.

[…] Taylor confided in the nurse treating her that she hadn’t always been sure she’d wanted this baby, now that she was single and unemployed. She’d considered both adoption and abortion before ultimately deciding to keep the child. The nurse then summoned a doctor, who questioned her further about her thoughts on ending the pregnancy. Next thing Taylor knew, she was being arrested for attempted feticide.

Yeah, yeah.  I know that this was in Iowa, rather than Utah.  But the principle seems to be the same: women are nothing but gestation machines, and the product of those machines is much more important than the machines themselves.  Maybe the suggestion is that women ought to be confined to bed for the sake of the foetus.  After all, they can’t possibly have a life of their own that’s of any value.

And maybe that last suggestion could be seen as a bleak, cynical, black joke that noone would take seriously.  Except that it seems that some already have.  It seems that, when it comes to maternal-foetal relations, some things are beyond satire.

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