News Abortion

Utah Criminal Miscarriage Law Back in the Spotlight

Robin Marty

A year ago a girl in Utah paid someone to beat her until she miscarried.  Now her case is back up for review.

In 2010, a pregnant teen in Utah was prosecuted over paying a man to beat her until she miscarried.  The case brought about a change in state law that made it illegal for a mother to intentionally induce a miscarriage, a frightening new law because all women who miscarried could potentially be seen as criminals.

Now that case is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

Via Fox News:

In court, the attorneys for Harrison and J.M.S. claimed that Utah’s abortion law essentially stated an abortion was a procedure to terminate a pregnancy. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is seeking to have the judges rulings overturned. The justices of the Utah Supreme Court zeroed in on the law as it was written at the time and the teenage girl’s intent.

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“It seems to me that one could make the argument that a distinguishing characteristic between an abortion and a killing of an unborn child is that in the case of an abortion, it’s the desire of the woman who is pregnant to terminate the pregnancy,” Justice Jill Parish asked assistant Utah Attorney General Christopher Ballard.

“The distinguishing factor in the way that the legislature has laid out Utah statutory scheme is whether it was a medical procedure to terminate the unborn child,” Ballard replied. “That is the distinguishing factor between abortion and murder.”

Only recently has Utah law changed to explicitly state “medical procedure.” Lawyers for Harrison and J.M.S. argued that the state should not get another shot.

“We can’t go back in and retroactively make the statute tighter than what it was,” Humiston said.

The question in front of the court is whether the teen and her accomplice should be tried for murder for inducing a miscarriage, or whether it should be treated as an abortion.  But the question that should be being asked is why abortion is so difficult to obtain that a girl or woman would be so desperate she would be reduced to paying someone to beat her just so she did not have to have a baby.

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

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