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Utah Gov. Signs Revised Bill Allowing Criminal Charges Against Women for Illegal Abortions

Utah Gov. Signs Revised Bill Allowing Criminal Charges Against Women for Illegal Abortions

March 9, 2010 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on Monday signed a bill (HB 462) that would allow prosecutors to bring criminal homicide charges against women who arrange illegal abortions, the Salt Lake Tribune reports (Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune, 3/8). An earlier version of the bill (HB 12), sponsored by state Rep. Carl Wimmer (R), would have allowed sentences of up to life in prison for any woman whose fetus dies because of her intentional or "reckless" actions. Critics of the original wording raised concerns that prosecutors could charge a woman who had a miscarriage at their discretion depending on their interpretation of the term "reckless" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Wimmer withdrew the original version and resubmitted a measure that omitted the "reckless" provision. Herbert issued his first veto as governor Monday to block the original bill and signed the revised version the same day. Herbert wrote in his veto statement, "I appreciate the willingness of Rep. Wimmer to re-evaluate the impact of potential unintended consequences arising from the inclusion of 'reckless' behavior." He added that the revised version "is more consistent with the true intent of the legislation and addresses those situations in which the termination of a pregnancy is intentional and is not conducted at a physician's discretion" (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/8).

Wimmer's bill was prompted by the 2009 case of a 17-year-old who was seven months pregnant and paid a man to beat her in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. Police arrested the teen, but charges against her were dropped after a judge ruled that seeking an abortion is not a crime. Wimmer has said the legislation is designed to close that "loophole" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).