The Utah House and Senate recently passed a bill that makes it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage. Though the bill isn’t as evil as I just made it out to be, I used language that blunt because that is the message Utah is effectively sending its female population. The bill is meant to hold pregnant women responsible for induced miscarriages or illegally obtained abortions. In addition to induced miscarriage, however, the bill states that a woman who engages in “reckless behavior” resulting in a miscarriage can be criminally responsible for the death of her child. “Using the legal standard of "reckless behavior" all a district attorney needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she didn't intend to lose the pregnancy. Drink too much alcohol and have a miscarriage? Under the new law such actions could be cause for prosecution” (Larisa).
I could go on for hours describing my opinion about this bill, but out of respect for differing belief systems, I’m going to focus on a more relevant, and more dangerous aspect of this legislation. It’s sexist. The entire bill stands upon the notion that women are, first and foremost, bodies that can create life. When we write legislation that separates men from women on the basis of reproductive possibility, the discrimination necessary to make that differentiation is -at its base- sexist. This bill primes the law to be untrusting of women to love their own children, making it clear to me that men (who run the government) need to maintain some amount of control over unborn fetuses (the only realm belonging completely to women). The bill even makes women responsible (and criminally liable) for accidents. The whole bill reminds me of our discussion of the Last Stand commercial response and whether men could be switched with women. Because we couldn’t make the switch, we concluded that the initial commercial was sexist. Because the law can’t be attributed to men, making them responsible for accidental miscarriages they may cause inadvertently, the law is sexist.How we live in a nation that is still passing laws regulating women’s bodies is beyond me, but I can fully understand how Firestone and other feminist scholars describe “liberation in terms that suggest the identification of woman with her body has been the source of our oppression, and hence that the source of our liberation lies in sundering that connection” (272). Agreeing with this bill on the basis that induced miscarriage is murder is at some level understandable to me, but making that stipulation is not worth furthering the cage we’ve built for women in America. This bill was made to seem innocuous (after all, no one likes baby killers), but its real substance is in the fact that it perpetuates control of women’s bodies at the government level, all the while acting under the guise of “saving lives”.