Criminalized Abortion: Coming to a State Near You

Utah State Rep. Carl Wimmer is running for re-election. Not exactly surprising news in that state, where he’s been basking in loads of media attention as the author of  Utah’s latest assault on women, H.B. 462, otherwise known as the Criminal Homicide and Abortions Revisions.

The anti-abortion bill that became law this week in Utah was Wimmer’s most recent attempt to weaken Roe v. Wade. If you’ve been following the Ms. Blog posts, you know that the new law criminalizes choice. Wimmer’s goal is to spread this legislation across the country through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he said in an interview with Rose Aguilar on The Smirking Chimp blog.

How did Wimmer come up with the new legislation? He heard about a 17-year old young woman, seven months pregnant, who paid a man $150 to beat her up. She was hoping it would induce a miscarriage. It didn’t work, and the baby was born and adopted. The man was sentenced to up to five years for the “attempted killing of an unborn child,” but a judge released the young woman because there was no law on Utah’s books allowing the pregnant woman to be charged with a crime. Alarmed, Wimmer swung into action.

You might think he was moved by compassion for someone driven to such a desperate action. You would be wrong. According to Karrie Galloway, CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, he moved to close the legal loophole because there was “no law for her to be punished more.”

Utah requires a minor to get parental consent before getting an abortion or get a judicial bypass. The young woman, who was 16 years old when she became pregnant, lives in a rural part of Utah. According to Galloway, there are no abortion providers in her area. The closest clinic is in Salt Lake City, about three or four hours away. Once there, she would have get to a clinic and it would have to arrange for her to appear before a judge. She would also be subject to a 24-hour waiting period, even if she could see the judge the day she arrived.

Imagine how this scenario plays out: She would need to either return home or stay overnight. She’s 16-years old—does she have a credit card to pay for a hotel? Considering the judge, the waiting period and then her physical discomfort after the abortion procedure, she might need to spend a few days in the city. What does she tell her parents?

Apparently she didn’t feel she could discuss her pregnancy with her parents in the first place, which started this chain of unfortunate events. And it’s been reported that her boyfriend insisted that she terminate the pregnancy or he’d leave her. Of course all these real-life complications aren’t seen by the likes of Carl Wimmer.

Anyone who remembers what it was like to be in love at 16 should be able to understand her fear, trauma and confusion. She did what she thought made sense, paying someone to help her miscarry.

Now Utah—and other states, if Wimmer is successful in his new campaign—will treat her like a criminal. What can we do about it? For one thing, if you’re thinking of a spring break trip to Utah, don’t go. Instead, let the Travel and Tourism Bureau know you don’t want to spend time in a place where women could be charged with homicide for trying to end a pregnancy.

Learn more about the anti-abortion movement via Ms. coverage.


Not the singer/songwriter Carole King. Been a feminist for as long as I can remember and committed to reproductive rights even longer.