VERNAL — A man who pleaded guilty to punching a pregnant woman who wanted an abortion was sentenced to prison for the second time Wednesday.
At this second sentencing, Arron Harrison, 24, was ordered Wednesday to serve a longer prison term of one to 15 years for attempted murder, a second-degree felony, by 8th District Judge Clark McClellan.
The man was originally sentenced to zero to five years, for attempted killing of an unborn child, a third-degree felony. A law passed in 2009 allowed prosecutors to file such a criminal charge if proper procedures are not followed in a legal or illegal abortion. But the Utah Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing after determining that the beating did not amount to an abortion procedure.
"There was nothing surprising (about the sentence)," Harrison's attorney, Clint Hendricks, said. "It was my understanding that was what the Supreme Court ordered it back for. It went smoothly."
The case centered around a woman who was 17 years old in May of 2009 and seven months pregnant. She asked Harrison — a stranger — to help her terminate her pregnancy in exchange for $150. The woman sought out Harrison after she was turned away for an abortion because her pregnancy was too far along.
Harrison agreed and took the woman to his home, where he punched her numerous times in the abdomen. The teen ultimately gave birth to a healthy baby, who was permanently removed from her custody by the state.
The teenager was charged in juvenile court with criminal solicitation to commit murder, but the charge was dismissed after 8th District Juvenile Judge Larry Steele determined that the Utah code defining abortion is "unambiguous" when it states "a woman who is seeking to have or obtains an abortion for herself is not criminally liable."
He said in his ruling that while the girl's actions were "shocking and crude," they were, nonetheless, legal under the state's current definition of abortion.
Steele's ruling prompted 8th District Judge A. Lynn Payne to decide that Harrison's offense fit the elements of both attempted murder and attempted killing of an unborn child and the judge interpreted previous rulings to understand that he should sentence Harrison on the lesser charge.
The Utah Supreme Court issued a ruling in December that found that an abortion procedure must be a medical procedure. The high court ordered that the girl's criminal case be reopened and that Harrison's sentence be vacated to allow for sentencing on the attempted murder charge.