Wimmer plans fix to controversial abortion bill
A bill that captured national headlines for potentially putting mothers who miscarry at risk of being investigated for criminal homicide will be replaced at Gov. Gary Herbert's request.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, will introduce new legislation to refine his bill, which was drafted in response to a case in Vernal where a teen paid a man to beat her in an attempt to force a miscarriage.
Wimmer said his bill still would apply to cases like the one in eastern Utah. But he is removing language that could subject to prosecution for criminal homicide a mother who miscarries because of reckless behavior.
For example, some suggested that an avid runner who miscarries could end up in prison for life.
"I don't want the false-rumors information that are going around this bill to detract from an otherwise very, very good piece of legislation," Wimmer said.
Herbert's spokeswoman, Angie Welling, said the governor asked for the change.
"He supports the intent of this bill but the concern was that any possible unintended consequences would harm that original intent, so the concern was eliminating those unintended consequences and getting back to the very good intentions of the bill," Welling said.
Melissa Bird, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Council, said the new bill would be an improvement, but it is still not a good bill.
"He certainly has narrowed it," she said. "It was one of the sticking points because it was so ill-defined and opened a large window for potential issues."
Marina Lowe, government affairs director for the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it is difficult for prosecutors to discern a woman's intent and the change fails to address the real problem.
"I also don't think it solves the underlying problem. The question we need to be asking ourselves as Utahns is how did we get here in the first place," said Lowe. She said the measure does nothing with respect to access to birth control, family planning, counseling and mental health services.
Both the House and Senate passed Wimmer's original bill and the governor has until Monday to sign it, so the Legislature will be moving quickly to try to get the revised bill to Herbert's desk by then.
The new bill, without the reckless-behavior provision, would supplant the original bill.
"I don't want the controversy to follow Governor Herbert," Wimmer said, adding that his intent by including reckless behavior was to target mothers who use illegal drugs and cause a miscarriage.
In the Vernal case, a judge dismissed charges against the then-17-year-old mother because, he said, there was no provision to prosecute her. The state has appealed the case.
The fetus survived the attack and has been adopted. The man who was paid $150 to beat the mother has been convicted and sentenced to prison.