Utah passed a new law, in which women who miscarry could face charges of murder and life sentences in prison.

This law differs radically from feticide laws in other states in its punishment of pregnant women themselves, said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the New York-based National Association of Pregnant Women.

Other states, such as North Carolina, Florida and Mississippi, have laws that are directed towards a third party and “were passed in response to a pregnant woman who has been beaten up by a husband or boyfriend,” Paltrow said. But Utah’s law is directed to the woman herself, and that’s what makes it different and dangerous.”

Some of the “knowing or intentional” acts that may be prosecuted under the law include smoking cigarettes during pregnancy, staying in an abusive relationship, refusing a Caesarean section or bed rest when instructed by a doctor or using prescription medications (f.e. cancer treatment) that are known to harm a fetus. One major concern is that the bill will drive women in need of prenatal and health care underground.

“Pregnant women will be likely to avoid seeking prenatal or open medical care for fear that their physician’s knowledge of substance abuse or other potentially harmful behavior could result in a jail sentence,” the American Medical Association has commented. Any health care provider could become an informant, reporting the pregnant woman to the police when knowing her actions would potentially terminate her pregnancy.

“There is no doubt that this law will be tested out on immigrant women and low-income women,” Fuentes and Reynoso write, “as women who are less likely to have health insurance, a regular health care provider and more likely to work in dangerous conditions…this law sanctions prosecutors to bring criminal charges against those women who have health outcomes that are worse than their wealthier, white, non-immigrant counterparts.”

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