Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Next Anti-Choice Target: Miscarriage - Utah miscarriage bill - Jezebel

The Next Anti-Choice Target: Miscarriage - Utah miscarriage bill - Jezebel

Holy crap I thought this was a joke or a typo I couldn't be more wrong.

They will now, in the state of utah put a woman up on MURDER CHARGES if she has a MISCARRIAGE!!!what are they INSANE!!!!! Is this the 15th century???? Is thias WICHBURNING and PITCHFORKS????? Do we know the earth is not flat, and the sky nis blue in SCREWED UP UTAH?????????

Measure on illegal abortions heads to governor
Health » Opponents fear 'reckless' clause could haunt domestic violence victims who stay with their abusers.

By Brandon Loomis

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 02/18/2010 06:20:08 PM MST

The Utah Senate has joined the House in allowing homicide charges against expectant mothers who arrange illegal abortions.

The bill responds to a case in which a Vernal woman allegedly paid a man $150 to beat her and cause miscarriage but could not be charged. The Senate on Thursday approved HB12 on a vote of 24-4, criminalizing a woman's "intentional, knowing, or reckless act" leading to a pregnancy's illegal termination. It specifies that a woman cannot be prosecuted for arranging a legal abortion.

The measure now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for final action.

Some Senate Democrats attempted a last-minute amendment to remove the word "reckless" from the list of criminal acts leading to miscarriage. They argued that criminalizing reckless acts leaves open the possibility of prosecutions against domestic violence victims who return to their abusers only to be beaten and lose the child.

"It's part of the cycle of domestic violence," said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City.

"I hope none of you ever have to face that situation," she said after realizing the majority would pass the bill as is, "or have a daughter facing that situation, or a granddaughter."

But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said the bill doesn't target victims at all -- only those who arrange to terminate their pregnancies illegally.

"I know it's well-intentioned," Dayton said of the attempt to lift "reckless acts" from the bill,
"but I don't think we want to go down the road of carefully defining the behavior of a woman."

Robles and Sen. Ben McAdams said they had spoken to the bill's original sponsor, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, just before the debate and believed he would support the change on behalf of domestic violence victims. Dayton, though, said Wimmer sent her a text message during the debate asking her to press on.

Wimmer later said he had been open to the Democrats' suggestion, but it had come too late.

"I wasn't about to hold the bill up," he said.


Utah Bill Criminalizes Miscarriage

By Rachel Larris, RH Reality Check

February 20, 2010 - 9:00am
Published under: Access to Abortion | fetal homicide | Utah
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A bill passed by the Utah House and Senate this week and waiting for the governor's signature, will make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage, and make induced abortion a crime in some instances.

According Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, what makes Utah's proposed law unique is that it is specifically designed to be punitive toward pregnant women, not those who might assist or cause an illegal abortion or unintended miscarriage.

The bill passed by legislators amends Utah's criminal statute to allow the state to charge a woman with criminal homicide for inducing a miscarriage or obtaining an illegal abortion. The basis for the law was a recent case in which a 17-year-old girl, who was seven months pregnant, paid a man $150 to beat her in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. Although the girl gave birth to a baby later given up for adoption, she was initially charged with attempted murder. However the charges were dropped because, at the time, under Utah state law a woman could not be prosecuted for attempting to arrange an abortion, lawful or unlawful.

The bill passed by the Utah legislature would change that. While the bill does not affect legally obtained abortions, it criminalizes any actions taken by women to induce a miscarriage or abortion outside of a doctor's care, with penalties including up to life in prison.

"What is really radical and different about this statute is that all of the other states' feticide laws are directed to third party attackers," Paltrow explained. "[Other states' feticide laws] were passed in response to a pregnant woman who has been beaten up by a husband or boyfriend. Utah's law is directed to the woman herself and that's what makes it different and dangerous."

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.

"This statute and the standards chosen leave a large number of pregnant women vulnerable to arrest even though they have no intention of ending a pregnancy," Paltrow said. "Whether or not the legislature intended this bill to become a tool for policing and punishing all pregnant women, if enacted this law would permit prosecution of a pregnant woman who stayed with her abusive husband because she was unable to leave. Not leaving would, under the 'reckless' standard, constitute conduct that consciously disregarded a substantial risk," Paltrow explained.

While many states have fetal homicide laws most apply only in the third trimester. Utah's bill would apply throughout the entirety of a woman's pregnancy. Even first trimester miscarriages could become the basis for a murder trial.

Bird said she is also concerned that the law will drive pregnant women with substance abuse problems "underground;" afraid to seek treatment lest they have a miscarriage and be charged for murder. She said it directly reverses the attempts made, though a bill passed in 2008, to encourage pregnant women to seek treatment for addiction.

Paltrow added that the commonly thought belief that pregnant women who use drugs are engaging in behavior that is likely to cause a stillbirth or a miscarriage is wrong.

"Science now makes clear that drug use by pregnant women does not create unique risks for pregnant women, although it is likely that among those targeted for prosecutions by this statute will be women who go to term under drug usage," she said.

The bill does exempt from prosecution fetal deaths due to failure to follow medical advice, accept treatment or refuse a cesarean section. Bird said this exemption was likely because of a 2004 case where a woman who was pregnant with twins was later charged with criminal homicide after one of the babies was stillborn, which the state deemed due to her refusal to have a cesarean section.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Utah worked together to "amend the hell out of the bill," Bird said. One of their few accomplishments was at least dropping the legal standard of "negligence" from the bill, a much lower standard than "recklessness."

Bird was shaken with emotion after the Senate vote. "I broke down and cried," she admitted. "I normally never let these kind of [legislative] battles get to me."

"What really sucks is that we had three supposed allies in the Senate, three [Democratic] women, who voted for the bill," Bird said, adding she didn't yet know why the three senators switched votes.

Marina Lowe is legislative and policy counsel for the ACLU of Utah. She worked in tandem with Bird on trying to derail or at least mitigate the worst aspects of the bill. Lowe says at this point she doesn't know if there is a potential constitutional challenge to the law once it is signed by the governor.

But she points to cases like the one in Iowa as exactly the kind of situation that might arise once this law is put into place.

Paltrow says this bill puts a lie to the idea that the pro-life movement cares about women.

"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."


Pregnant? Don't Fall Down the Stairs

By Amie Newman, Managing Editor

February 15, 2010 - 5:07pm
Published under: Maternal Health | Women’s Rights | adoption | Childbirth | feticide | pregnancy | Unborn Victims of Violence | violence against women
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This article contains a correction made at 7:58 a.m. Tuesday, February 17th, 2010 to clarify the law applied to the arrest of Christine Taylor. An earlier version did not specify the statute applied in this case.

When anti-choice advocates dream up and manage to pass bills in the name of being "pro-life," make no mistake - there is no question they know that these laws have the potential to ruin lives.

In the case of Christine Taylor, an Iowa mother of two girls and pregnant with her third child, a feticide law enacted in that state because of anti-choice efforts has wreaked havoc on her life.

It all started last month, according to

Last month, after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband, Ms. 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.

After Taylor was treated by a nurse at the private hospital and deemed fine, she confided to the nurse that she was upset and scared and wasn't sure she wanted to continue the pregnancy. Her husband recently left her after she told him she was pregnant with their third child:

"I never said I didn't want my baby, but I admitted that I had been considering adoption or abortion," she said. "I admit that I said I wasn't sure I wanted to continue the pregnancy. My husband sends me money, but money doesn't make a parent. I don't have anybody else to turn to."

Although Taylor was in the first part of her second trimester, the nurse noted on her chart that she was in the first week of her third trimester - the time when, under Iowa's fetal homicide law, a violent act perpetrated against a pregnant woman could be considered criminal. The nurse called over the doctor who then called the police - which is when Christine Taylor found herself arrested and sent to jail for admitting uncertainty about her pregnancy and fear about raising three children on her own.

Iowa is one of 37 states with a feticide law on the books, a number that has increased in recent years "because of a growing movement by some conservatives to target providers of late abortion, such as Dr. George Tiller, and to protect "unborn victims of violence,"" a back-door effort to create a status of "personhood" for the fetus separate from its mother before it is viable.

One section of Iowa's law criminalizes any act by any person who attempts to intentionally terminate a pregnancy "without the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person" at any stage of pregnancy.

Another makes it a felony to intentionally terminate a pregnancy "with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person after the end of the second trimester," unless a pregnancy is terminated for the reasons of the life or health of the mother. In short...a willing effort to terminate a pregnancy. This is the section of the law under which Christine Taylor was charged.

According to the Des Moines Register, "Bringing a charge of attempted feticide against Taylor would have treaded new legal territory in Iowa, legal experts said."

"I've never seen those facts brought to me in 20 years of prosecuting," said Corwin Ritchie, coordinator of the Iowa County Attorneys Association.

Robert Rigg, who teaches at the Drake University Law School, said the unusual case raises important questions even though Taylor is not being prosecuted. Among them: "How in the heck did the police get a statement made by a patient to a medical person during the course of treatment?" he asked.
Under federal law, health care providers can release limited information to law enforcement, but not if it was given in the course of that person's "treatment related to the propensity to commit this type of violent act." Disclosure of some information could be a violation of federal rules protecting personal medical information, Rigg said.

Though some fetal homicide laws are relics from centuries ago (Washington state's 1895 law defines fetal homicide as intentionally causing the death of a "quick child," which is an ancient term for when a pregnant woman can feel the fetus inside her), most derive from our federal "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" (UVVA), which allows for the perpetrator of a violent crime against a pregnant women to be charged for two crimes - one against the woman and one against her fetus. And while a violent crime perpetrated against a pregnant woman resulting in both her death and the death of her unborn baby during a wanted pregnancy is a heinous crime, the passage of the UVVA law and the resulting state fetal homicide laws are more about blocking access to abortion and keeping women scared and "in line." Re-published on, Jeanne Flavin writes in her book Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women's Reproduction in America:

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act explicitly states that nothing in the act "shall be construed to permit the prosecution ... of any woman with respect to her unborn child." But state statutes have used nearly identical language (often, as noted, only after hard-fought battles to get the language included in the first place) and then have gone on to prosecute pregnant women for their drug use in what has been called a "legislative bait and switch." Fetal protection laws not only represent a backdoor to abolishing abortion but also they leave open the possibility that the laws used to prosecute those who assault pregnant women may be directed against pregnant women themselves. In Missouri, for example, the state argued that the exception articulated in their fetus-centered homicide statute applied only to a woman who indirectly harmed her unborn child, not to a woman whose drug use was claimed to have directly endangered the child.

So while these laws were enacted because of intense advocacy by anti-choice forces under the guise of "protecting pregnant women and their unborn babies," they do have the power to be - and have been - wielded like weapons against pregnant women like Christine Taylor.

Quoted in the Des Moines Register, Lynn Paltrow executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) said of the incident:

"You want women to be able to talk to their doctors without being accused as a baby killer"...Transforming some mothers' obviously difficult and painful circumstances into a crime, she said, "would make every pregnant woman in this country vulnerable to criminal prosecution."

The charges against Taylor were dropped ultimately but not because this is a draconian, hateful, anti-woman, anti-family piece of legislation that harms women and families. They were dropped because Taylor's doctor confirmed that she was in her second trimester at the time of her fall, not the "criminal" third trimester.

And, as notes, there is another shocking element to this case - the question of patient confidentiality. The doctor and nurse involved in reporting this to the police seem to be in serious breach of the law:

Christine Taylor came to them emotionally vulnerable in order to seek help for her unborn child. She thought she was in a safe place talking to professionals in whom she could confide. Oops, her bad. As Robert Rigg, professor at the Drake University Law School, said, "How in the heck did the police get a statement made by a patient to a medical person during the course of treatment?"

This is not about "protecting the life of the unborn." Protecting the life of the unborn for women who want to be pregnant means ensuring access to high quality prenatal care. It means ensuring pay equity-- that women are paid on par with their male counterparts - so they are able to support a family. It means ensuring paid family leave and fair breastfeeding policies. It means making sure that pregnant women are safe from perpetators of violence - most often their boyfriends or husbands.

This is about innocent lives being trampled upon though. This is about the lives of the women and children who are here now: living, breathing, laughing, struggling, nurturing, being. It's about making sure families like Christine Taylor and her two children have the means to live safely, free to make the best decisions they can about their health and lives, without fear of prosecution or retribution from anti-choice advocates aiming to criminalize pregnant women's choices.

What kind of messages are we sending to pregnant women? Either ask for or seek help and risk being persecuted, maybe even jailed, for reaching out or remain fearful and do not seek out medical attention or services. These aren't choices at all. These are dangerous scenarios that risk both mothers' and babies' health and lives.

Christine Taylor is not "collateral damage" in the war against women, perpetrated by anti-choice advocates. She is an exact target

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