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Utah Legislature: Abortion bill draws criticism

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 10:38 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — An abortion bill that critics regard as Utah attempting to make a right out of two wrongs was approved this session and has already been signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, who called for and got an amendment first.

HB462 makes seeking an illegal abortion by a pregnant woman tantamount to criminal homicide. The bill has been criticized by bloggers nationwide as a tragic response to a tragic situation, and the measure puts any pregnant woman who might accidently cause a spontaneous abortion at risk of being prosecuted for murder.

Herbert vetoed an earlier version of the bill, HB12, but signed HB462 after language was added that would exempt accidental miscarriages.

The substitute measure has sharpened criticism by pro-choice groups who claim Utah's overzealousness regarding abortion still puts any woman who might harm a fetus while hiking or who is at fault in an auto or other accident at risk for criminal prosecution.

They also say that the bill compounds the tragedy it stems from. Last May, a seven-months-pregnant 17-year-old in eastern Utah paid a man $150 to kick her repeatedly in the stomach so she would lose the baby but keep her boyfriend who said he would leave her if she didn't get an abortion.

The baby was born healthy and is being adopted by a foster family. The assailant, Arron Harrison, pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony and is serving five years. The girl was released because the court ruled under state law at the time that any woman who solicits or seeks to have another person cause an abortion of her own unborn child cannot be criminally liable.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, sponsor of the bills, said the incident "absolutely outraged" him because no charges could be brought against the girl, a loophole in state abortion laws that his bill closes, he said.

Wimmer's HB200 addresses legal abortions. Physicians performing them under current Utah law must inform the woman that an ultrasound image of her fetus is available. Under the new bill, if the woman asks to see the image, physicians must show it live within her view and explain the image in detail.

Wimmer said the legislation is based on surveys showing that women who see ultrasounds tend to change their minds about having an abortion.

e-mail: jthalman@desnews.com

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