In 2009, a pregnant Utah teen desperate to end her pregnancy took unusual steps. Due to the lack of clinics, strict rules for underage girls trying to obtain abortions, and an already very advanced pregnancy, she paid a man to beat her in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. It did not work, and the 17 year old, who eventually gave birth and put the baby up for adoption, was charged with attempted murder.
The charges were dropped after defense argued that Utah had no law that allowed prosecution of a woman trying to obtain an unlawful abortion.
So the state changed that.
In the next legislative session, a law was passed that made it a crime to induce a miscarriage or obtain an “illegal” abortion, with pregnant women potentially serving life in prison if convicted. The original bill included “reckless behavior,” which could even open the possibility of pressing charges against women who miscarry after doing drugs, drinking, being the victim of an accident, or anything else the prosecution might define as “reckless” (Sushi eating, anyone?). Any attempt to arrange an “illegal abortion” under the new law is now considered attempted homicide
Now, the state Supreme Court has ruled on the case and has declared that the teen did, in fact, solicit an illegal abortion two years prior. “The Utah Code’s definition of abortion contemplates only procedures that are medical in nature,” the high court wrote in a unanimous decision. “We hold that the solicited assault of a woman to terminate her pregnancy is not a ‘procedure,’ as contemplated by statute, and therefore does not constitute an abortion.”
The Attorney General’s office has not stated its full plans of re-prosecuting the case, but did say it was “pleased” with the reversal by the state Supreme Court. “We always thought the juvenile court misinterpreted the statutes, and the Utah Supreme Court ruling today confirms that.”
Photo credit: wikimedia commons