Thursday, February 25, 2010


I don't want to go too far down into the realm of politics here and all,

This is bad. If it's actually true, that is, and not just an angry media touch-point blown out of proportion--which they do make it out to be by the titles, ("Utah Bill Criminalizes Miscarriage") before going on to explain that it is induced miscarriages.

Well, let's be devil's advocate. If you're not a (questioning) pro-choicer like I am, why is such a law so bad?

For one thing, how do you prove induced miscarriages? In some cases perhaps it is cut-and-dry; in most, I'm sure it's not. My cousin had one: miscarriages are utterly devastating to the people who didn't want them to happen. Getting and staying pregnant is not always that easy of a thing. If the burden of proof is on mothers to satisfy questions of intent, then that is the most draconian thing I've heard of since the days that women were considered the guilty parties for being raped while walking public streets by themselves. (There were more than one court case at the turn of the last century which ruled thusly, according to American's Women.)

Actually, that idea is so utterly draconian that I cannot seriously believe anybody (in a western liberal democracy, anyway) would interpret it that way.

But still, there are issues as is. Obviously, I'm a proponent of one's right to do what one wants with one's body, of abortion as a safe, legal option and all that, of the removal of abortion being as an unfair burden on abused and low-income women in addition to being an unrealistic lack of acknowledgement of the desperate situations our society still heaps onto its women--but even if we could come to a national consensus that abortion is wrong and should be illegal except in life-threatening situations, there is so much gray in this particular Utah law.

What if a woman fell down the stairs when she was at home by herself? How is anyone going to know whether or not that was intentional? Are you really going to waste state funds trying to work that out?

What if a woman has an abusive husband? If she stays with him because that's what so many victims do, and loses her child, is anyone really going to call that her fault? Sure, you could argue she has some responsibility in that case, but the abuser has a hell of a lot more, and is the one who chose to stray outside of the law by using violence. Do we really want to give government the power to make victim-at-fault judgments about people's lives and choices? Do we want to give the government that much power over deeply personal questions?

What does putting these women in jail do for society? The vast majority of people who attempt to end pregnancies are one or more of a) young, b) poor, c) in relationships with unfair power dynamics, if relationships at all, or d) desperate for any other of a whole host of reasons. And let's not kid ourselves, those options are distinctly related to a denial of access to birth control and information about it. Throwing such people in jail is only going to exacerbate the social problems that lead up to the demand for pregnancy termination. This does not do one damn person, especially any unborn child, one lick of good.

The articles that I found about it have very different descriptions, the Salt Lake Tribune article speaking only about illegally (as in, not through the allowed clinics) obtained abortions, while the admittedly biased (though biased toward my personal belief in the matter) blog articles state that it is a law against induced, and potentially accidental (depending on your definition of "reckless", which I agree is a disturbing word to use, because of the questions raised above) miscarriage. I suppose it depends on your definition of "illegal abortion" verses "induced miscarriage" as well, which sound like separate terminology to explain the same thing. The thing they are explaining is a hell of a gray area, in my book.

So I'm not sure who to believe about the actual details of this law, and it's not my state, and to some degree it seems within state's rights to contemplate such issues individually. My inner libertarian proclaims that reproduction is a personal, nobody-else's-business affair which no level of government has the right to stick it's nose in, but people used to say that about beating your wife, and that's no longer acceptable by the standards of anybody who deserves to be listened to. What changed was who the rights got extended to, and it doesn't seem unfeasible to me to extend rights to something that, if left to it's own devices, will become a person. Should we wait until it actually is a person? Maybe, because of all the gray areas and rough issues associated. Like the women who wrote the blog articles, I remain troubled by all of this law, but particularly object to the use of the word "reckless", and how loosely that has the potential to be applied.

In response to the event that apparently spawned the law, in which a woman paid a man $150 so that he would beat her into having a miscarriage, it seems fair and right that if the man could be charged then so should she, and certainly vice versa, though I railed on the stupidity and futility of criminalizing desperate mothers. That case gets directly into the flash-point question of abortion; regardless of whether it's legal, or of the coat-hanger variety; and the question of when you draw the line between a bunch of cells and a child. I admit that despite my strong feelings on the subject I don't have satisfactory answers to these questions, that my convictions are based on compassion and empathy and thus are quite thin and unsure.

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