Frustration reigneth here in Utah amongst those of us who treasure women's rights. That includes me. I am terribly frustrated with the Legislature here for a number of reasons. Let me enumerate.
1-Sex Ed in Utah.
Rep. Steve Urqhardt from St. George, sponsored a bill here in Utah about Sex Ed.
Turns out Utah is an abstinence only state. Seriously. Also turns out that the rate of teen pregnancy and STD's in Utah is high. Somehow or another we are surprised about this. Seriously? Steve's bill would change the law to allow for more comprehensive sex education in school. Understanding the conservative viewpoint, the bill included an opt-out for parents who, for whatever reason, did not want their children getting comprehensive sex ed. See? Something for everyone. Those who believe comprehensive sex education is in the interest of protecting our children get what they want. Those who want to keep their children in the dark about sex get what they want. Everybody's happy, right? Wrong. The bill was not even discussed in the Senate. Just voted down and dropped. For shame Utah. For shame.
2-Women's rights as concerns pregnancy.
The Legislature just passed another bill that I find so appalling that it makes me sick. Current law in Utah allows for prosecution of persons causing harm to an unborn child. As in, when a woman gets an illegal abortion, the person performing the abortion can be prosecuted. If a woman is beaten, and it causes her to lose her fetus, the person inflicting the violence can be charged for the harm to the woman and the harm to the fetus. Basically, if someone causes the loss of an unborn child, without the consent of the woman, can be charged for the loss of that unborn child.
BUT, and this is very important, the woman herself CANNOT be charged.
Now, the woman can be charged. I understand (sort of) the reasoning behind the change. The girl last year who hired someone to beat her up in an effort to end her pregnancy. Certain persons want her to be prosecuted. So, yes, I understand the reasoning, but I think it is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!!!! On so many levels.
Instead of considering what might have possessed this girl (and she was a girl, not an adult) to hire someone to BEAT HER so severely that she would lose her pregnancy and, oh, I don't know, figuring out WHY and HOW TO HELP HER, they choose to prosecute instead. That is smart. There is one level.
Next level. They want to prevent abortions. That is what this law is supposedly about. But, instead of doing things to help prevent pregnancy, like SEX EDUCATION in school, they just want to prosecute those who are accidentally pregnant and need to end it. Maybe, just maybe, if they considered that comprehensive sex ed might help prevent unwanted pregnancies, we could get somewhere. But no, dear heaven above, if we teach kids to have safe sex they will just go out and bang anyone and everyone!!!!!!!! HORRORS!!! I hate to break it to you folks, but fear of STD's and pregnancy does not prevent most kids (or adults) from having sex. If they are going to have sex, they are going to have sex, whether you not you give them the info to do it safely. This is proven by the high numbers of STD's and teen pregnancy abounding in our lovely state. If keeping the info out of their hands would prevent them from having sex, there would be no teen pregnancies and no STD's! Clearly, abstinence only education is not the answer.
3-And this is the one that REALLY makes me angry.
The law criminalizes any woman who recklessly or with intent causes a miscarriage. Of her own. Sounds kind of innocuous, no? But it isn't! It means that some random prosecutor, doctor, midwife, judge, nurse, whoever, gets to decide what is reckless behaviour for me. Say I have a miscarriage and in the midst of my treatment mention that I had been drinking Dr. Pepper. My doctor could decide that was reckless behaviour on my part and report me. I could be charged with causing the loss of my baby. Doesn't matter that I may be devastated by this loss and am probably blaming myself (wrongly) anyway. They will make it worse by slinging me in jail and charging me with the murder of my child.
What if I am out running while pregnant and fall and hurt myself and cause a miscarriage. Is that reckless? Should I be jailed?
What if I eat alfalfa sprouts on my deli turkey sandwich and end up with listeriosis?? I mean, it looks healthy, right? But it is pretty damn reckless, isn't it? I mean, doesn't everyone know that raw sprouts and deli meats can carry listeriosis? Oh, wait, probably not, since we don't talk about pregnancy and sex in schools.
And before you tell me that I am being ridiculous and they would never push things this far, let me tell you this. Not too long ago, a woman in Ohio became the victim of just such a law. She was very distraught, briefly lost consciousness and fell down her stairs. She elected to go to the ER to get the baby checked and while talking to the nurse about her distress, due to her husband's decision to leave her over the pregnancy, mentioned she wasn't sure she wanted to be pregnant.
Nurse told doctor, doctor called the police and she was jailed for two days. Two days, kids. She had two little ones at home who had to be taken care of, but no matter. She fell down the stairs and obviously must be punished.
Or how about this one? A woman here in the United States was told she needed to go on bedrest. She was a single mom, had other children and a job. She couldn't do bedrest, if she did, she would have no one to take care of her children and no money with which to pay for food, home, clothes, bills, what have you. But, instead of providing her with useful assistance, the state chose to prosecute her. For being unable to care for her family while on bed rest.
So, my friends, it is not that ridiculous. In fact, what it is, is dangerous. A slippery slope, if you will. What is the next step in the erosion of my rights as a woman? Telling me what I can or cannot do WITH MY OWN BODY while I am pregnant is beyond ridiculous and criminalizing it is incomprehensible to me. You can be that I will be writing a letter to the governor and to my representatives about how utterly ludicrous things are right now. I mean, really, we won't teach the kids about preventing pregnancy and then we will punish them for their lack of knowledge if they do get pregnant and happen to lose said pregnancy. That makes a whole lot of sense.