News: UT Criminal Homicide if a Smoker Has a Miscarriage

Utah House Bill 12 Update…

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Utah Legislature Passes Bill that Makes it Criminal Homicide if a Smoker Has a Miscarriage

March 9, 2010
By Michael Siegel, MD, MPH

The Utah legislature has passed a bill that would almost certainly make it criminal homicide if a smoker has a miscarriage and would allow the woman to be prosecuted, with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

According to Utah law: “A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, with criminal negligence, or acting with a mental state otherwise specified in the statute defining the offense, causes the death of another human being, including an unborn child at any stage of its development.”

However, under current Utah law, there are provisions which prevent the state from prosecuting women who miscarry or have an abortion.

The bill – House Bill 12 – would strictly define abortion as performed by a physician under specified circumstances, and would remove the restrictions so that a pregnant woman could be prosecuted if she “recklessly” causes the “death” of an “unborn child.”

In order to show that a woman acted in a reckless manner, it merely needs to be shown that the woman’s action – smoking in this case – is known to cause miscarriages. Since there is strong evidence that smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, women who smoke during pregnancy and who suffer a miscarriage could be viewed as having acted recklessly. Thus, they would – by Utah state law if this bill is signed by the governor – be guilty of criminal homicide and could face a potential maximum penalty of life in prison.

The Rest of the Story

Besides being the most dangerous intrusion into the rights of woman that I am aware of, this is also the most dangerous intrusion into the autonomy of smokers that I have yet seen. This bill, if enacted into law, would literally allow the state to lock up in prison woman who smoke during pregnancy and experience a miscarriage.

Anti-smoking groups should be among the first protesting against this bill and urging the Governor to veto it. However, to the best of my knowledge, the national anti-smoking groups have been silent.

You know, I talk a fair amount on this blog about the mentality in the anti-smoking movement and where it could potentially lead, but this is no longer in the realm of what could happen. It’s here! This is happening before our eyes.

Fortunately, the governor of Utah vetoed this bill yesterday. He then went on to sign an amended bill in which the word “reckless” was removed. The legislation is still an absolute abomination: it makes it criminal homicide for a woman to take the morning after pill. However, the removal of the word “reckless” eliminates the ability of the state to press charges against smokers who suffer a miscarriage.

The Utah legislature and governor are a complete disgrace to America and to our Constitution and the individual rights and autonomy upon which this country was founded. I cannot possibly condemn them strongly enough.

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