Yesterday I got into a facebook discussion with a friend of a friend (read: stranger) over the new law in Utah regarding criminalizing miscarriages. The law was passed because a 17 year old girl who was 7 months pregnant paid a man $150 to beat her so she would miscarry. Because they couldn’t charge her with anything criminal they changed the law so that any termination of pregnancy that isn’t “carried out by a physician or through a substance used under the direction of a physician” is criminal homicide. Yes, including miscarriages.
Sadly, instead of discussing the most disturbing aspect of this bill, that because it uses the word “reckless,” anything from getting into a car accident to staying in a domestically abusive relationship could be considered grounds for homicide, the conversation sort of became a discussion of whether or not this particular girl deserves jail.
This stranger argued that the bill is justified because, well, because abortion is murder, and only doctors should be able to murder, I suppose? She said that the girl decided to do it after her boyfriend threatened to leave her, so obviously, “she very selfishly decided that a baby was a burden and would end her relationship with her boyfriend; so the baby had to die.” This is a characterization that I’ve heard a lot, that girls who have abortions, especially late-term abortions, are selfish, shallow, callous women who make these decisions on a whim. But I am privy to some important information that I’m going to share with you now: Humans don’t act that way.
Women don’t end pregnancies on a whim, and they don’t delay abortions because they are lazy or stupid or shallow. And in this case, a woman PAID a man to beat her up. He took her to a basement and kicked and bit her repeatedly. There is no universe where a woman wakes up and thinks, “eh…I don’t want to lose my date for prom…I’ll pay this guy to physically injure me.”
It’s entirely possible that she did it because her boyfriend was going to leave her, and not because Utah requires parental consent (not just notification) for anyone under 18, or because there are only 3 clinics in the state, all of which are in Salt Lake (a four and a half hour drive from the county this girl lived in), or because once you find a way to get out of school and make the trip there is a mandatory 24 hour waiting period. But if that is true, I’m going to guess it’s not as simple as Todd not wanting to date a teen mom. If this boyfriend was also the father, than maybe this girl didn’t think she would have any support, emotionally or financially without him. And a boyfriend demanding you have an abortion sounds more than a little controlling and manipulative. We don’t know the nature of their relationship but a woman who is willing to hire a man to beat her is not choosing between a movie date and a baby shower. Teen mothers aren’t monsters who enjoy thinking of terrible things to do to their unborn fetuses. Humans don’t act that way.
The way to stop women from seeking illegal abortions is not to criminalize miscarriages, it’s to make contraception and sex education easily accessible. Restricting abortions only serves to increase rates of unsafe abortions. And that’s a proven fact.