The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Utah law would criminalize some abortions

A bill awaiting the governor’s signature could go further than any other in the country.


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.


If it is signed into law by Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, who has said he agrees generally with its goals but is still studying the particulars, Utah would still allow legal abortions performed by a doctor. But it would go further than any other state, several legal experts said, in mapping out a much murkier question: when is a woman criminally liable for trying to end a pregnancy through other means or self-infliction?

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Carl D. Wimmer, a Republican and former police officer from the suburbs of Salt Lake City, said the beating case, and the decision by a judge last fall that the girl had committed no crime because seeking an abortion is not illegal, revealed “a loophole” in the law.


“A woman going out to seek any way to kill her unborn child, no matter how heinous or brutal, couldn’t be held liable,” Mr. Wimmer said.

Read on for more background and details.

Comments read comments(6)
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Mike L

posted March 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

This is the second article that I have seen posted on this proposed law, the other one emphasizing the threat to women who miscarry. while this article says it won’t be used that way I see nothing in it that prevents any woman who does have a miscarriage from having to prove she did not intend it, and it would seem that any form of carelessness could allow her to be prosecuted. I haven’t read the law, but I believe that any law that can be abused will be abused.
Some other thoughts: Looks like it is the first attempt at a law that will punish the woman for an abortion. If abortion is murder, than punishing the instigator seems fair to me.
One thing that jumped out at me was the fact that what I guess they call legal abortions, are not effected, only “do it yourself” abortions. Kind of sounds like a law to protect the abortion clinics income.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Not charging the 17 year old with intent to kill by assault and battery is the issue. Why do you need a law? Unless the young woman
was feeble-minded (no indication she was)she could be charged and tried on that alone…others younger have been tried for murder and
sentenced to prison..the difference being is the victim in utero does not have the legal rights afforded to a minute old new born. What needs to be done is declare by law the rights of the un-born… it was obviously the intent in California when Scott Peterson was charged and convicted of two counts of murder. This bill in Utah does not address the real issue…and will result in further muddling the abortion issue making it even murkier in the courts.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Another thought: Mr Wimmer says the current law does not prevent any woman from killing her child in utero…no matter how heinous or brutal.” Tearing off limbs, chemical-burning, sucking out brain matter into sinks…these are just some of the brutalizing techniques used during a legal abortion. What this 17 yr old did to her child
is nothing compared to what these torture mills called abortion clinics do everyday inside their walls…all in the name of free choice!! If Mr. Wimmer is truely interested in protecting the innocent unborn why is he bothering with this bill that really in the long run will only make matters worse for everyone and solve nothing when it comes to the rights of all human beings..born as well as un-born!

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posted March 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Mike L.,
The law would not make a woman who had a miscarriage have to prove that she did not intend it, as the burden of proof always rests on the prosecution. The woman would only need to establish a reasonable doubt, which I imagine in such a case would be quite easy.

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posted March 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm

The law would not make a woman who had a miscarriage have to prove that she did not intend it, as the burden of proof always rests on the prosecution. The woman would only need to establish a reasonable doubt, which I imagine in such a case would be quite easy.
For that to happen, the woman would be on trial. There is nothing at all to prevent criminal trials of every woman who has a miscarriage under this law. It is evil.

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Mike L

posted March 3, 2010 at 11:59 am

Sorry will, I don’t accept you premise. There has already been a case where a woman fell down the stops and when the paramedics arrived she mentioned that she was not sure she really wanted the child. Yes, the charges were dropped AFTER she spent two days in jail. The other Mike is right, every woman that has a miscarriage may have to show at a trial that there is reasonable doubt. And if I remember right, all the DA has to show is that she was “careless” by some definition.
I wonder if this law might not increase abortions. If she thinks she might miscarry, then to avoid legal problems all she has to do is go to a legal clinic. Problem solved.
I understand the horror of the case that led to this law, but I think the law is a bad one and is an over-reaction. I do believe it is a miscarriage of justice in that case that the young man is sitting in prison while the young lady is free.

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