Utah Lawmakers to Rewrite Law After Judge Rules Late-Term Beating Is Same as Abortion

Utah teen can't be prosecuted for asking a man to beat her to induce abortion.

ByABC News
October 14, 2009, 3:42 PM

Oct. 15, 2009 — -- Angry Utah legislators are moving to close a legal loophole that bars prosecuting a teenager who allegedly hired a man to beat her to induce a late-term miscarriage.

The legislative move stems from outrage that the teenage girl, whose identity is being withheld because of her age, was released from jail. She was seven months pregnant at the time of the attack.

The furor erupted after Judge Larry Steele ruled that while the teen's actions were "shocking and crude," they fit the state's definition for an abortion and, therefore, she "cannot be held criminally liable for her actions."

The Utah abortion statute says it is a crime to perform an abortion on a woman who is more than 20 weeks pregnant, but ensures that there would be no criminal penalties for a woman seeking an abortion.

The statute also defines an abortion as "any and all procedures" taken to kill a "live unborn child," and doesn't specify that it has to be done by a medical professional to qualify as an abortion under the law.

Some conservative state representatives argue that Steele misread the statute and that any woman who tries to perform an abortion without the help of a medical professional, much like this teen allegedly did, should be eligible for murder charges.

"The law says a woman can't be prosecuted for having an abortion, but I wouldn't declare this an attempted abortion. She tried to kill the unborn baby and to me, that is outright attempted murder," said State Rep. Paul Ray.

Ray and others want to fix this.