Friday, March 05, 2010

Representative Carl Wimmer's Abortion Bill

Here's the text of the original bill, and here's some Tribune reporting.

There is much about this bill to debate. Debates which could have brought about very interesting discussions and perhaps even greater understanding. However, instead of that happening, we were bombarded with FUD arguments like sending women to prison for falling down the stairs, or slipping on ice. Take this quote from Common Dreams.org:
Statistics suggest that 15 to 20 per cent of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. "This creates a law that makes any pregnant woman who has a miscarriage potentially criminally liable for murder," said Missy Bird, director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Utah, part of the national organization that champions abortion rights.
For crying out loud, this is just stupid. It's nothing but scare tactics, and it's an insult to the intelligence of Utahans.

And that's what makes me the most angry. Instead of having a healthy and potentially mind opening discussion, I'm forced to read these lame articles filled with stupid arguments on my friends' facebook pages. These kinds of FUD arguments sound good in the papers and can be very effective at moving legislation, but they harm regular people and distort our water cooler conversations, not to mention feed the anti-Utah undercurrent present in our state.

So please, can we just talk like normal people once in a while?

8 comments:

Jesse said...

If I thought she was out-of-her-head I'd tell ya so, but what Bird fears may happen is legit. If a law says that a woman who knowingly or intentionally miscarries her baby is guilty of homicide, then SOMEONE needs to investigate suspicious situations to determine whether the mother had knowledge or intent to miscarry. Crimes don't prove themselves; they're proven after lengthy investigations.

Is this a scare tactic? Of course, but that doesn't make it untrue. It's pretty simple. It doesn't matter what bill sponsor Carl Wimmer's intent is (I presume he has good intentions, he's just not executing well). Once they pass the bill, the Legislature gives discretion--and duty--to police and prosecutors to investigate suspected cases of intentional miscarriage. That, undoubtedly, will sometimes mean innocent women are investigated during the most tragic moments of their lives. You can pray that prosecutors will use this power wisely--and usually they probably will--but even wise prosecutors make tragic mistakes, and trust me, not all prosecutors are wise.

And while I'd laugh off the block anyone who suggested this law would lead to ALL miscarriages being investigated--it won't do that and I haven't heard anyone claim that--there's also nothing in the bill that prevents a particularly zealous prosecutor from doing exactly that. Is that what Utah wants? If not, then the law needs further review because Wimmer's newly submitted bill doesn't change the core problem that critics have with the bill (i.e. miscarriages will be inherently suspicious).

Wimmer's new bill adds so-called "intent language" which will make it harder for prosecutors to prove their case that the defendant woman committed homicide. Personally, I think critics should be pleased by that, but obviously it doesn't go far enough for some people.

For more: http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/blog-3237-updated-abortion-bill-tempest-leaves-the-teapot.html

Cameron said...

Thanks for the comment Jesse. Just a couple things to respond.

First, you write that you don't see anyone claiming that all miscarriages will be investigated, but that's exactly why I included the quote I did. It is a perfect example of FUD. It quite obviously links the 15-20% statistic with PP's argument that miscarriages will be prosecuted as murder. The rest of the CommonDreams.org article is filled with other such absurdities. For instance, they quote "syndicated columnist" Dan Savage, who wrote,

"If every miscarriage is a potential homicide, how does Utah avoid launching a criminal investigation every time a woman has a miscarriage? And how is Utah supposed to know when a pregnant woman has had a miscarriage? You're going to have to create some sort of pregnancy registry to keep track of all those fetuses. Perhaps you could start issuing 'conception certificates' to women who get pregnant. And then, if there isn't a baby within nine months of the issuance of a conception certificate, the woman could be hauled in for questioning."

This type of argumentation is clearly fear mongering.

As for having legitimate reason to fear that women will face scrutiny after miscarriages, it could only happen under legitimately fishy circumstances and with medical personnel involved. And if that freaks you out, then we need to look at our entire child endangerment legal process. Every day parents fall under scrutiny because their kids have bruises or broken bones that need explaining. Including today.

I don't see anything different about this bill than what presently happens when born children are harmed and/or killed.

Jesse said...

You've hit the central issue with the word "fishy." Fishy is in the eye of the beholder, and some cops/prosecutors wear fish-colored goggles. What type of "fishy" circumstances justify an investigation? Drinking? Smoking? Skiing? Domestic violence? Illegal drugs? LEGAL drugs? Aerobics? Yoga? ATVing? Skydiving? Getting into a car wreck without wearing a seatbelt? Walking on the street with an iPod in your ears and getting hit by a car? Biking on the wrong side of the road? Biking period? Which of these items are "fishy" if the women soon after miscarries? Well, we don't know, because Wimmer's bill doesn't tell us. He's giving prosecutors the task of determining "fishy" rather than just defining in his bill the actual behavior that he wants to outlaw. That's pretty ironic for a guy who condemns government encroachment in citizens' lives.

As for the 15-20 percent figure Bird cites. She said "potentially criminally liable for murder." And she's right. Like I said, this bill makes all miscarriages inherently suspicious and Bird is making the point that there are a lot of miscarriages. I think she's trying to simply say, "Miscarriage is so common, this could happen to someone you love." What she didn't say is that they will all be investigated.

As for Dan Savage: consider the source. He's a humorist, and frequently an alarmist. He has moments of inspired wisdom, and a heckuva lotta bluster. This was an instance of bluster.

HB 462 just makes prosecutors jump through an extra hoop--"intent language"--on the way to conviction, but it doesn't solve critics' concerns. Could a prosecutor prove a women knowingly engaged in a reckless behavior--let's say ATVing--and then suffered a miscarriage? Probably. It will be hard for that woman to argue that she didn't know ATVing could be dangerous. Under HB 12, prosecutors wouldn't have to prove that the ATVer knew or intended anything at all; under HB 462, they just have to prove that she knew she was acting recklessly, or intended to do so, and if the baby died as a result, bammo, she's seemingly committed homicide under Wimmer's bill.

Cameron said...

What makes a 2 year old's visit to the ER "fishy"?

We do this sort of thing all the time and no one makes a fuss about it.

Charles D said...

So in every case in which a pregnancy is terminated prior to birth, the state government must intervene to ascertain whether any of the many conditions and circumstances spelled out in this bill occurred or whether any of the few exceptions could exonerate the mother. In other words, every single time a pregnancy is terminated, a full-scale criminal investigation must be undertaken at the expense of the taxpayers of Utah, and should sufficient evidence be found, the mother must be bound over for trial at taxpayer's expense, be given a full jury trial at taxpayer's expense, and if found guilty be incarcerated for a lengthy term at taxpayer's expense.

For a political party that claims to be for small government and reduced government spending, you have a very peculiar way of demonstrating it. Did I miss the part where the father, who is at least 50% responsible for the existence of the fetus, bears any liability? Sounds like this whole thing has a lot more to do with religion dominated by male hierarchy than with concern for human life or justice.

Cameron said...

So in every case in which a pregnancy is terminated prior to birth, the state government must intervene to ascertain whether any of the many conditions and circumstances spelled out in this bill occurred or whether any of the few exceptions could exonerate the mother.

Only just like we do when a born child is taken to the hospital and/or is killed.

Sounds like this whole thing has a lot more to do with religion dominated by male hierarchy than with concern for human life or justice.

This bill came to be because a pregnant mother paid a man to beat her up in hopes to kill the unborn child. The man is now in jail, the mother is not. How does that fit your "male hierarchy" gobbledygook?

This police state/religious extremest scaremongering is exactly what I was referring to in the post.

There are some really good conversations Utahans could be having right now about this issue, but instead we get this hand wringing hyperbole.

Charles D said...

How does that fit in to my gobbledygook? I'll tell you.

This situation is a painful reminder of the desperation so many young women feel when they are faced with an unwanted pregnancy. What Utahans should do is take a look at the set of circumstances in which this poor young woman found herself and work to eradicate them, instead of finding a way to punish her. Had this young woman had abortion services freely available to her and had her mind not been confused by male-dominated religious laws, she could have terminated the pregnancy safely and legally.

There are few situations more personal than the intimate discussions between a woman and her physician, and yet Utah wants to make those discussions the subject of police investigations. These are and properly should be privileged communications and neither party can be or should be required to testify to the details of those conversations. That's not police state fearmongering, it's simply taking the Wimmer bill to its logical conclusion.

Cameron said...

Charles, there's nothing preventing a woman from getting an abortion - including Wimmer's law.

There are few situations more personal than the intimate discussions between a woman and her physician, and yet Utah wants to make those discussions the subject of police investigations.

With this statement you have just provided another example of the inane FUD surrounding this bill.