Remember when George W. Bush was first elected, and he talked about the new “compassionate conservatism”? I guess the heartless, soulless conservatism we were all used to was getting stale. It seemed like a good idea—hey, you can be a religious wingnut but still care about the other people on the planet—win/win! Alas, it didn’t stick.
Case in point: Recent events in Utah.
Here are the facts I’ve gleaned from the media: A teenaged girl lived in poverty in a rural part of Utah. She’d received no information about contraception. Sex ed is illegal in Utah, except for the “abstinence only” curriculum that is ignored by every teen in the state, judging by their pregnancy and STD rates. The girl became pregnant.
It is legal to get a first trimester abortion in Utah, but there are only three providers in the state and they are all in Salt Lake City, hundreds of miles from where this girl lived. Question: how does an impoverished teen travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion? Answer: she doesn’t.
So time went by and the girl was seven months along. As if her life didn’t already suck enough, her weasel creep boyfriend told her he would leave her if she didn’t terminate the pregnancy.
The girl took action. She offered a man $150 to beat the crap out of her and, she hoped, cause a miscarriage. He accepted. In the basement of his parents’ house, he punched and kicked her, concentrating his efforts on her belly, leaving her bruised and bloodied.
Law enforcement got involved and the man was arrested and charged. He received a sentence of five years in prison. The baby survived the assault. The girl gave birth and baby has been adopted.
Now, in my view, the girl’s actions do not suggest that she is evil. Instead, the whole thing reeks of the most rank and hopeless desperation. And if I were a Utah state legislator, I would look at this horrific event and wonder what Utah could do to ensure that no other woman or girl felt so hopeless and so desperate as to do a thing like that. Even an anti-abortion legislator, if he or she were a compassionate conservative, might try to think of ways to make every pregnant teenaged girl in the state feel like she was still loved and valued by her community. Like she would receive support and assistance, whether she chose to keep the child or give it up for adoption. I would want a pregnant teenaged girl to be loved enough by all the people around her that even if her dirtbag weasel creep of a boyfriend threatened to split, she would not do something rankly, hopelessly desperate because that asshole was all she had.
But that’s just me.
Enter Republican Representative Carl Wimmer. A conservative of the non-compassionate variety. His response to this awful case: introduce a bill that would criminalize miscarriage. That’s right, Wimmer did not see a hopeless, desperate girl. He saw evil, and he was incensed that under current state law, that evil, evil girl would not be punished.
The original version of the bill made it a crime to lose a pregnancy through intentional or reckless or negligent action. In other words, pretty much any woman who miscarried could potentially be charged with murder. When an uproar began, Wimmer dropped the “negligent” part. The legislature passed the bill, but the governor threatened to veto it. Wimmer dropped the “reckless” part, too. The governor signed it into law.
To put this in human terms, had Rep. Wimmer’s bill been on the books last spring — and had the 17-year-old’s fetus not survived — she would have faced a prison sentence of 15 years to life. Rep. Wimmer says he’s OK with that because the teenager has to face the “consequences of her barbaric actions.”
Fifteen years to life for that pathetic and desperate girl.
Even without the “negligent” or “reckless” language, the law presents enormous danger. Imagine: an unwilling father beats his pregnant wife or girlfriend, resulting in the death of the fetus. He claims she wanted him to do it. Fifteen to life for that barbaric woman. Or, as happened recently in another state, a woman who is not thrilled to be pregnant falls down the stairs and is accused of having done so deliberately.
To be fair, as far as I know, Wimmer never claimed to be compassionate. Good thing, because while I can think of a number of words that describe him, that’s not one of them.