Utah Anti-Abortion Bill Citing ‘Reckless Act’ Is Withdrawn
Published: March 4, 2010

DENVER — A sweeping anti-abortion statute in Utah that would have allowed up to life in prison for a woman whose fetus died from her intentional or reckless behavior was withdrawn by its sponsor on Thursday and will be revised to be narrower in scope.

The original bill, which was sent to Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, for his consideration — and set off a firestorm of anxiety and criticism from abortion rights and women’s advocacy groups around the country — now goes back to the Legislature, neither signed nor vetoed.

The sponsor, Representative Carl D. Wimmer, a Republican, said he had removed a key clause that would have allowed prosecution under Utah’s criminal homicide laws for a “reckless act of the woman” that resulted in death to a fetus. Language will remain, he said, that makes a woman’s “intentional” actions, if resulting in the death of her fetus in an illegal abortion, a felony.

The bill was prompted by a case last year in which a 17-year-old who was seven months pregnant sought to induce a miscarriage by paying a man to beat her. She was arrested, but released by a judge who said seeking an abortion was not a crime.

Legal abortions, performed by a doctor, would not be affected by the old bill or its replacement. But Utah has statutes on the books intended to discourage abortions, including a parental consent requirement for minors.

The Legislature adjourns Thursday. Abortion rights groups had urged the governor to veto the bill, saying the language about “reckless” acts could open the door to a witch hunt where every miscarriage was potentially subject to police questioning.

Angie Welling, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Mr. Herbert supported the bill’s aims but “also believes very strongly that the state should not enact a law with unintended consequences.”