Utah legislative craziness takes dark turn

March 1, 2010

Today I discussed legislative craziness, and she was surprised to discover Utah’s wackoes like Rep. Chris Buttars are national, and perhaps international stars of legislative dysfunction.  In my e-mail I get notes talking about a silly resolution from South Dakota’s legislature.

Then I stumbled into this:  “Utah bill criminalizes miscarriage.

From what I’ve read of the bill, I agree that’s what it would do.  It’s sitting on the Utah governor’s desk right now, deserving a veto, but probably headed into the Utah Code.

If it becomes law, women might be well advised to avoid any activity while in Utah, certainly not skiing or snowmobiling, nor hiking or river running, nor even jogging.  A woman who had a miscarriage within a week of skiing in Utah would be hard put to provide evidence exculpating her from a charge that her actions caused the miscarriage.  The contest of expert testifiers could be tremendously expensive.  Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, California and other states offer all of those activities, but without the specter of a murder charge to women who miscarry later.

No, there’s no excuse for a woman who doesn’t know she’s pregnant.

Yes, I know the bill was designed to punish the bizarre behavior of some people who attempt to induce abortion by physical activity early in a pregnancy.  No, I don’t think this bill does that job well, either.

You legislative drafters, take a look at the bill.  The language is bizarre, it seems to me — it backs into a law by defining what is not covered.  I see some great ambiguities.  The bill excuses medical abuse of the fetus — failing to get medical care for the mother, for example, which leads to death of the fetus — but calls into question any action a woman might take in seeking an abortion from a medical practitioner.  It seems to me that the bill directly strives to outlaw all medical abortions, though one section says that seeking an abortion is not covered.

Debaters would have a field day with the enforceability problems of this bill.

Oy.  From Chris Buttars, the craziness disease has spread to the entire Utah legislature.

Is there a quarantine law in Utah, for people who carry dangerous infections?

Resources:

  • Best description and discussion I’ve seen on the bill, at the New York Times; it confronts head on the chief problem with this proposed law:  It criminalizes the activities of a desperate young woman who needs counseling and other help, but does not need to be jailed, nor deserve it:

Lynn M. Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit group based in New York, said the focus on the child obscured the bleak story of the teenager, who also deserves, she said, empathy from the world, and the law.

“Almost nobody is speaking for her,” Ms. Paltrow said. “Why would a young woman get to a point of such desperation that she would invite violence against herself? Anybody that desperate is not going to be deterred by this statute.”


Utah legislator proposes insult to Martin Luther King, Jr.: Share the holiday with gun inventor and manufacturer

February 18, 2010

First:  No, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not assassinated with a shot from a Browning rifle.  The gun alleged to have been used by the man convicted of the shooting, James Earl Ray, was a Remington Gamemaster 760.

It was found in a Browning box, however.

One of my Utah sources alerted me to this story, and I’ll let the conservative Deseret News give the facts:

Utah Legislature: Utah to get gun holiday on MLK day?

Holding both holidays on the same day was proposed as a money-saving measure, Niederhauser said. Madsen was not immediately available for comment.

By Lisa Riley Roche

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 8:46 p.m. MST
SALT LAKE CITY — The birthday of famed Ogden gunmaker John Browning would be celebrated as a state holiday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day under a new bill.

SB247, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, has yet to be drafted but is titled “John M. Browning State Holiday.”

According to Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, the holiday would be observed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the third Monday of every January.

King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and assassinated in 1968. Browning’s birthday is believed to be around Jan. 21, and he died at age 71 in 1926. Jenkins acknowledged there is concern about celebrating both men on the same day.

Utah lawmakers had been criticized for beginning their annual legislative session on the same day as the King holiday until the state constitution was changed in 2008 to move the start date to the fourth Monday in January.

Then there is the question of whether a man who held 128 gun patents should share a holiday with a reverend who, before he was shot and killed, used non-violence to promote civil rights.

But Jenkins said, “Guns keep peace.”

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake branch, said she was “furious” about the possibility.

“It is not acceptable for the name John M. Browning to jointly share the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday,” she said. “Dr. King was assassinated by a man using a gun. John M. Browning was a gun manufacturer. … To me, it’s a very mean-spirited act. I’m not sure what is behind doing all of this.”

The NAACP has been involved with a number of legislative battles, particularly over the holiday’s name and a recent fight to have the Legislature delay its start so as not to overlap with the holiday.

“I am extremely adamant about not making any changes to this holiday,” Williams said. “We have fought too hard for this.”

Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Holladay, also questioned the idea.

“There’s probably many famous Utahns who might deserve their own day,” she said. “Let’s keep the day for someone who spent his life working in a peaceful manner for the goodwill of all Americans and not dilute the memory of his efforts.”

Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser said Madsen is open to moving the Browning holiday to a different day. “His main purpose is to honor John Browning,” Niederhauser said. “He’s a pioneer here in Utah.”  (Contributing: Aaron Falk)

Utah’s legislature can be pretty insulting in its intended actions.  I interned there in two different sessions.  Many of us recall that this legislature once proposed to rename the College of Southern Utah to avoid confusion about its acronym with a couple of other schools (Colorado State and Colorado Southern, among others).  The original bill would have renamed it “Southern Utah College.”

Alert interns picked up on the acronym problem right away, and the school was instead renamed Southern Utah State College (then University, now Southern Utah University).

Maybe we can find those interns, and alert the current legislature that they should not even consider this patently, blatantly offensive idea.

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