Utah Gov. Studying Bill That Would Hold Women Criminally Liable for Illegal Abortions

A 17-year-old girl’s decision to pay a stranger $150 to beat her up in hopes of inducing a miscarriage created such an outrage in Utah that the governor is now weighing whether to sign legislation that would criminalize illegal abortions.

The legislation, known as Utah State House Bill 12, would go further than any other state when it comes to holding women criminally liable for trying to end their pregnancies, the New York Times reports.

Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, has said he agrees with the goal of the legislation, but is studying it before signing the bill into law.

Lawmakers, especially the bill’s sponsor Rep. Carl D. Wimmer, drafted the legislation after a judge in the beatings case found that the girl committed no crime because seeking an abortion isn’t illegal in the state. The girl’s hired attacker, however, was convicted in the beating. The child survived and was adopted.

Critics worry that a bizarre criminal case will have widespread implications and give prosecutors enormous power to inquire about a woman’s intentions toward an unborn child, the Times notes.

“So many things can happen, and it’s all in the eye of the beholder—that’s what’s very dangerous about this legislation,” Marina Lowe, legislative and policy counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, told the Times. The ACLU of Utah is among the groups which have urged the governor to veto the bill.

The Times notes that other states—38 of which have laws against fetal homicide—are already making these inquiries. In Iowa last month, a pregnant Des Moines County woman was arrested after she fell down the stairs at home and told emergency workers that she wasn’t sure she wanted the child. She was released two days later and charges were dropped, according to the Times and the Hawk Eye.

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