Making law based on one unfortunate incident is knee-jerk governing. That's what Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, is trying to do with his House Bill 12, which allows the state to prosecute a woman for criminal homicide if she causes her own miscarriage.
Last year a 17-year-old girl in Vernal who became pregnant paid someone to beat her in a sad and misguided attempt to cause a miscarriage. But Wimmer doesn't see this isolated incident as a heartrending situation in which a teenager was so desperate and pathetically uninformed that she risked her own life to end her pregnancy instead of seeking a legal abortion.
On the contrary, Wimmer only sees a potential opportunity to prosecute a young girl for making a horrific decision. In this case, it was an opportunity lost because of what he sees as a "loophole" in the law. But Wimmer also sees a chance to once again send his oft-repeated message that, since the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld abortion as a woman's right, Utah legislators will do everything they can to punish women for making that choice. While we don't condone ending a pregnancy except by safe and legal means, this legislation is an outgrowth of that heartless, punitive attitude.
Making a woman liable for prosecution for causing a miscarriage opens the door for false accusations by a vindictive husband, ex-boyfriend or anyone else who might want to cause trouble for a woman who miscarries. Even if the accusation were unfounded, a woman who has recently lost a baby could be cruelly subjected to interrogation by police.
It seems ironic at best and hypocritical at worst for Wimmer, a staunch advocate of less government intrusion into private dealings among people and businesses, to sponsor a bill that would unfairly intrude into a woman's life and could create an unnecessary legal cloud over an already trying situation.
Instead of going after the rare pregnant girl or woman who makes the serious mistake of trying to end the pregnancy herself, Wimmer would do better to support legislation mandating comprehensive education for all Utah teens -- male and female -- about how to prevent pregnancy and how to deal with it if they or their partner were to become pregnant anyway. The rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy are evidence the current abstinence-based education in Utah schools isn't working.
It's a malevolent government that withholds vital sex education, then makes a woman a criminal for ending a pregnancy in the only way that seems available to her.
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