This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Utah Legislature quickly fixed an abortion bill Friday that opponents argued could have resulted in criminal homicide charges against a mother who suffers a miscarriage.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, said his original bill was designed to go after mothers who recklessly use illegal drugs and lose their fetus and insisted that claims it could extend more broadly were "an absolute farce and a lie."
"The rumors," he said, "that this bill allowed women to be charged for slipping on ice or driving down the road without her seat belt and getting in an accident: total fabrication."
Nonetheless, Wimmer said he deleted language that allowed homicide charges against a woman whose "reckless" actions led to the termination of a pregnancy because he wants his bill to be a national model for the "pro-life" movement and he wants to avoid the controversy.
The House and Senate quickly passed the bill Friday, replacing the earlier version which was awaiting action by Gov. Gary Herbert.
The governor had until Monday to act on the initial legislation. But the governor's spokeswoman said Thursday that Herbert had concerns about the unintended consequences of the original bill and asked for the change.
Wimmer said he decided to make the change on his own.
"We will be the only state in the nation that will do what we're attempting to do here: hold a woman accountable for killing her unborn child" outside of a medical abortion, Wimmer said.
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, chastised conservatives for their willingness to expand the reach of government.
"We just shouldn't empower the state to the degree this bill does to poke around in the bedrooms and doctors' offices of you and me and our children. It's contrary to conservative principles," he said, suggesting the inconsistency is so stark that the Legislature should have a doctor on hand "to treat some of our members for whiplash."
Wimmer's bill was drafted in response to an incident in rural eastern Utah, where a judge dismissed charges against a 17-year-old pregnant girl who had paid a man $150 to beat her until she miscarried. The judge said there was no provision in law to prosecute her, although the state has appealed.
The fetus survived the attack and has been adopted. The man who beat the woman was sentenced to prison.
Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, spoke against HB462.
"I want to remind the body that what prompted this bill and this whole issue was the pregnancy of a 17-yer-old woman who hired someone to assist her in an abortion," Romero said, noting there could be a better way to deal with the issue besides criminalizing that act.
"A better policy would be to have better education and resources available in the community so we can stop pregnancies before they become an issue."
The bill passed the House 55-15 and the Senate 23-4 and is headed back to the governor.
Cathy McKitrick contributed to this story.