John Knefel brought this insane legislative item to our attention last week and yesterday’s New York Times gives us some background into the decision behind Utah’s bill that would send a woman to prison if someone (who, I’m wondering?) suspects her miscarriage was intentional.
Last May in a small town in eastern Utah, a 17-year-old girl, seven months pregnant, paid a man she had just met $150 to beat her up in hopes of inducing a miscarriage that would resolve her crisis. He obliged, taking her to a basement and kicking her repeatedly in the stomach.
The fetus survived the assault and was born in August. The attacker went to jail. And the girl, whose name was never released because she was under age, became the center of a legal debate — and the piece of legislation now awaiting the governor’s signature or veto. The bill would formally criminalize what she did, that is, to seek an illegal abortion.
The fact that the Utah legislature could hear this sad story of a teenager so desperate she had someone beat her and think, “Hmm, that girl needs some more punishment,” makes me lose faith in humanity. Not only do they want to give the terrified 17-year-old another (metaphorical) beating, they want to make sure this completely isolated incident never happens again. In addition to that scenario being highly unlikely, the bill threatens all women of child-bearing age lest they do something that is not in their potential unborn child’s interest. Why not preemptively jail any female as soon as she starts menstruating?
It’s clear the majority were swayed by a reading of a letter from the baby’s adoptive mother.
“When Representative Wimmer read the letter, about the little girl playing with bubbles in the bathtub and learning to crawl and so full of life, you could have heard a pin drop,” said Laura Bunker, director of United Families Utah, a group that worked on behalf of the bill. “And all of a sudden people realized that there was a victim here, and the victim was alive and had a future.”
But not much of a future since she was born female, and lives in Utah.
Lynn M. Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit group based in New York, said the focus on the child obscured the bleak story of the teenager, who also deserves, she said, empathy from the world, and the law.
“Almost nobody is speaking for her,” Ms. Paltrow said. “Why would a young woman get to a point of such desperation that she would invite violence against herself? Anybody that desperate is not going to be deterred by this statute.”
Let’s hope Gov. Gary Herbert considers how threatening a woman with prison, or an intrusive investigation, after the pain of a miscarriage would go over with the women in his family before he signs this bill into law.