Abortion Laws Challenged in Utah, rankles Roman Union
OOC: I intend on keeping this peaceful. This also deals with a separate nation-state in Utah that is part of the Roman Union, an alliance of states affiliated with Rome.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT (RFP)- A Utah woman who ran afoul of state law is challenging the state's abortion laws in a bid to clear her name of any wrongdoing.
Christine Tomkin, who describes herself as a "devout Mormon", was arrested last week for contravening two Utah laws when she travelled to Los Angeles to have an abortion done so that she could undergo breast-conservation treatment after being diagnosed with breast cancer midway through her pregnancy. She claimed she had the procedure done to protect her own health, but Utah state officials don't see it that way.
Under Utah law titled "the Border Morality Law (BML)", citizens are not allowed to leave the border to have "illegal" operations done (such as abortion) unless they do not at all return to the State. In Utah- ruled by the Governing Body of The Church of Latter Day Saints since gaining considerable independence from Rome in 1993- abrtion is illegal except in cases where the mother's life is threatened. However, although breast cancer can be a terminal illness, Utah officials do not consider it an illness where an abortion can be permitted, because it can be "treated" without an abortion. Tomkin's argument is that she needed her breasts for her baby, and without them she says, "the pregancy is not worth it."
"I cannot raise a child without breastmilk," said Tomkin, 43, a married mother of four who also notes that Utah bans "formula" because it is "unnatural". "Hence, I needed this operation done." She says she would not have done the procedure under any other circumstances, and is not challenging Utah's laws to make abortion legal in the country.
Her case marks the first time the BML has been challenged in Utah, and according to some legal analysts, she may be successful. "Once she leaves the country, those laws don't apply to her," said Professor Quintus Marcus Pubinus of the University of Rome. "Hence, the BML has no jurisdiction."
However, Professor Jack Moore of the University of Los Angeles-California disagrees. "The BML may have no jurisdiction outside of Utah," he said, "but it does have jurisdiction inside of Utah. Simply put, by returning Mrs. Tomkin knew she would be arrested, and she was."
The case has caught the attention of the Curia in Rome, where there is a considerable debate concerning the merits of such a law. Utah, like Cascadia, several provinces in New Mexico and the Haida Kingdom in northern British Columbia, is a member of the Roman Union, a bloc of essentially vassal states tied to the Roman Empire. Union states still have to pay tribute to Rome and must still provide armed forces should Rome require them, but enjoy considerable independence everywhere else, including how it controls its own regional and internal affairs. This means that, although abortion is legal in the Empire, Union states are not required to follow suit. However, the debate in the Curia centres on whether or not the BML contravenes the Union agreement, namely the clause that prohibits "interference" in the internal affairs of another state.
"We are not saying that Utah cannot outlaw abortion," said Consul Gnaeus Valerius Maderia. "We are, however, questioning whether or not they can outlaw their citizens from obtaining an abortion where it is legal and returning."
The debate continues today while Tomkin's trial is slated to begin later this week.
OOC: I think a simple solution might be the use of a wet nurse, but that would probably undermine the original problem being presented which is creating a law that restricts an individuals' movement when the individual intends to perform an act that is illegal within one region, but is legal within another. (is this a correct assumption?) This may be an infringement on one's right to movement, if that is upheld within the empire.
Most laws tend to deal with tangible consequences, such as if you drive to fast (an easily observable act) one gets fined etc. etc. But this law seems to take into account intangible intentions, which makes it that much more difficult to deal with. One can be arrested for intending to commit a crime.
This law also has with it a the easily tangible element of 'if you commit an act illegal within our borders and return, you will be arrested.' A similar siuation might be if one went to Nevada to get a prostitute, then when one came home they were arrested. Perhaps the problem is regional laws vs. nation-wide laws.
Anyway, I have no idea how to RP this ICly, but these as my observations.
OOC: I envisioned this in a press conference format, with nations sending reporters to cover the trial and positing their own opinions in the matter. It'd be like Roe vs. Wade and the Terry Schiavo case. At least that's what I intend. If you want (and anyone else interested), we can carry this on press-conference style.
You (and anyone else interested) can also RP as a special interest group or any kind of lobbyist, because this (should anyway) catch the attention of the many pro-life and pro-choice groups around simply because it deals with abortion.
I should also mention that John Tomkin, the husband of the woman in question, does not have multiple wives, because the main Church of Latter Day Saints prohibits polygamy.
This next post will ICly address what you've said.
The Curia, Rome
Consul Valerius Maderia knew he had a major issue on his hands before he entered the press conference room at the Curia, but even then he was taken aback by the packed room containing more than 1000 journalists. He was joined by John Tomkin, the husband of Christie, who also issued a statement today.
His duty today was to present the first press release the Empire would issue on the matter, which he did upon sitting down:
"This is the official press release from the Roman Government:
Official Press Release From The Imperial Government
As many of you already know, the past few days have been one of hot contention for the Empire. A woman in Utah has just been arrested for contravening two Utah laws, one concerning its abortion law and the other concerning the fact that Mrs. Tomkin left Utah to have one performed.
The situation arose when Mrs. Tomkin left Utah for Los Angeles to have an abortion so she could undergo breast conservation therapy. In Los Angeles, an area under direct Roman control, abortion is legal but in Utah it is not. Thus, when Mrs. Tomkin went to return back to the state of her birth, she was arrested because she broke Utah's laws, even though she had an abortion where it was legal. Utah says its reasoning behind this law- called the 'Border Morality Law' or 'BML' for short- is to ensure that its citizens live 'upright' even outside of its countries' boundaries.
Now, as Utah is a member of the Roman Union it does not have to follow Roman law to the letter and is free to make its own laws as it chooses. Its only obligations to the Empire are taxes and armed forces should the Empire require them, though in other times it has control over those forces. However, the Union Charter strictly prohibits interference in other states' affairs, and we are investigating whether or not the BML does so.
This, we would like to emphasize, is the heart of the matter. We are not here to rule on the legality of abortion- we are simply here to examine if a Union member has gone too far in its legislation. We in Rome decided we want abortions. Those in Salt Lake City did not, and we are fine with that. However, we will not accept any attempts by Union members to force its laws upon any other state.
We also want to mention that, while Rome does have the authority to intervene in Union states, it can only do so under certain conditions. For instance, Rome is prohibited from changing any internal law in a Union state, such as declaring that Utah must legalize abortion. We also cannot interfere in the succession of leadership in a Union country- in the event of disputes, we are only allowed to place interim leaders there and must call an immediate election for a successor.
We would like to finish by stating that while the question of abortion is a vital one in today's world, Rome is not here to decide that question. We are here to examine if the BML oversteps Utah state authority and are not here to tell Utah to change its laws.
Consul Gnaeus Valerius Maderia,
October 25, MMV
Thank you. Mr. Tomkin, over to you."
Mr. Tomkin began to speak.
"Thank you Consul.
I would like to begin by saying that my wife and I are devout members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. We believe that abortion is abhorrent and should not be practiced, and our stance does not change because of what has happened to my wife.
However, we disagree with the State over its right to tell us that we cannot get an abortion, should we need it, outside of the State. Utah laws currently prohibit formula and 'wet nurses' because they feel it is 'unnatural', which is why we decided to go to California to have an abortion procedure done. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and we felt that, in the interests of the health of my wife and our family, that it was necessary to abort the baby so that she can undergo breast conservation therapy so that she can have breasts to breastfeed our future babies. This was not an easy decision to make, but since the State routinely denied our attempts, we were left with no other choice.
Christine and I have called Utah 'home' our whole lives and, up until now, we have been proud Ute citizens. However, these recent events have shaken our trust in the Utah system and this is why we demand change. We will continue to live by the Creed of the Church of Latter Day Saints until the day we die, and we hope that one day so too will the Utah government.
Maderia then spoke. "The floor is now open for questions."
OOC: Brutix is joining :)
Hi, I'm Lori Yu of the Brutix National News and I have a few questions. Firstly, if you knew you would be arrested for this, couldn't you have moved to avoid this mess, and secondly, couldn't you have also put this baby up for adoption instead of terminating the child to help preserve oneself for future children?
OOC: Why thank you.
Mr. Tomkin spoke.
"Firstly, Utah is our home. We could never, ever imagine leaving. It's too dear to our hearts.
Secondly, concerning adoption, we couldn't put it up for adoption because that would still bring the baby to term, and Christie was halfway through her pregnancy. The way we saw it, we could take no chances. It's not like she was due 'any day now' and we could have waited. The cancer would spread, and we made a conscious decision that preserving Christie's breasts so that she can continue to breastfeed any future child was better that risking her losing her breasts and having a baby. You see, we couldn't do the conservation treatment with her pregnancy because that requires radiation treatment that would be harmful to the baby, hence why we aborted. It was a difficult choice but we felt that in the interests of Christie and the family, it was the right thing to do."
OOC: The views of Bjornoyan journalists do not reflect the views of Bjornoya, although he is supporting a 'special intrest' of sorts, that being a stronger centralized government. And we have weird newspapers in Bjornoya. I assume I can ask questions to the consul who can give an unofficial viewpoint of the Roman Government?
Bjornoyan correspondent Maunfred Aufolov:
Some questions for Consul Valerius Maderia,
First, you've stated that the only thing required of Roman union states, including Utah is to tribute the empire with taxes and if required military forces in times of war. In essence the major factors unifying your so called empire are money and power. If this is the case, how can the empire make any moral judgement about its states without falling into the abyss of 'might makes right?'
Second, if the states within the Roman Empire are truly a nation, what is it that binds you together? Aren't there some basic principals required legally of all states? If one of the Roman states suddenly legalized murder, would you still consider it a member of the Roman Empire?
And if there are some basic moral groundings that unify the so called Roman Empire, why is abortion not one of those basic principals? Abortion is many times associated with murder, why should it not have a basic empire-wide law?
In short if the only power the Roman Empire has is to assimilate wealth and man-power, how does it decide the appropriate way to use this power? How can it create a morality from which to base its legal system? Or does the Roman Empire believe morality to be democraticly dictated?
ooc: careful, told you our newspapers are weird. hehe imagine if an american president was asked something like that.
OOC: Bjornoya, you're doing well.
I should also state, for background, Union states are effectively like the client states of the Ancient Period, but the Government refuses to acknowledge this.
Consul Maderia replied without haste.
"First of all, Union states are not the same thing as the Empire. The Empire is what is ruled directly from Rome and the Union are those autonomous states who are affiliated with us. They are independent states in confederation with Rome and are not 'one in the same', and hence can maintain different laws than we have, if they so choose. We simply ask they not interfere in our own affairs and we will not do the same in theirs.
"Furthermore, in simple terms, yes, Union members can legalize murder if they so choose." He then caught himself before he quipped that some people accuse the Romans of doing so because they legalized abortion. "We don't believe in legislating morality- we believe the individual governments are capable enough to do so on their own."
"However, we do have provisions in the Union Charter that allows us to intervene on behalf of the population. If a revolt occurs and the population wants a change in government, we must give them that, and we do. This may sound like covert corruption but we have passed very strict laws prohibiting this kind of action.
"To answer your third question, there is no 'unifying morality' in the Union structure because we are firm believers in autonomy. We just simply ask that if they want to have an association with Rome that they aid us economically and militarily, and we will do the same for them. In Utah, for example, we have helped them commission several public works since 1993, including the construction of many Mormon Churches (OOC: the Mormons have, in fact, built many churches since the ascension of their current President). We have helped our Union States be active members in Roman trade, which continues to be alive and well to this day."
A day after the exhausting press conference, Consul Valerius Maderia immediately went to work. He had every Senator and every Prefect- including Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the Church of Latter Day Saints and thus the President of Utah- present with him to discuss the latest matter at hand: whether or not Hinckley's law prohibiting immoral acts outside of its borders overextended his authority. He was confident of the proceedings, especially with the Caesar in Poland and thus unable to spoil his fun.
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I hope you all had a nice sleep," said the Consul. "I take it none of you need an introduction on today's topic, given the news its received lately."
He smirked before continuing on. "President Hinckley, why don't you start us off?"
"Fine then," said a visibly jaded Hinckley. "Since I don't want to bore you all with the details, let me say that we instituted that law because we believe our citizens must uphold the greatest of virtues even they are not inside our state. We do not care if they choose not to return- it is their choice, and we hope they don't make them, but if they do, we'll accept that- but we do care if they do. We are more than just a 'rest area': we are a country with values and morals and we expect our citizens to uphold them."
"Mr. President, I think it's honourable that you want your citizens to be upright and moral," said Corsican President Marie Guyenia, "but aren't you going too far? The way I see it, you're trying to regulate your citizens when you have no ability to do so."
"I agree," said Hector Marconi, the Prince of Narbon et Basqueland. "Once they're not inside your house, you have no authority to tell them what to do."
"Besides," said Sassarian Queen Claudia Ferrarina, "I think it's scary that you would even spy on your citizens like that. Can't they get a little privacy, even if it's just abroad?"
"Nonsense," said Hinckley. "Don't you want your kids to behave when they're over at someone else's house? It's the same principle here."
"Yeah, but we've always been told to respect other peoples' rules when we're in their house. You seem to have forgotten that," said Ferrarina.
"Listen, Mr. President, I'm not going to lie to you, that law is garbage," said the Consul. "Do whatever you want inside your own lands but leave the rest of our lands to us."
"You don't understand, do you?" said a visibly exasperated Hinckley. "I'm not telling my citizens how to live their lives once they're outside of Utah. I am simply telling them that if they break Utah's laws they are not welcome."
The Consul was quick to reply. "Yeah, but what is the extent of those laws? Modern jurisprudence has always held that laws are only enforceable within that nation's borders and thus cannot be applied outside of it. We also believes this sets a dangerous precedent- by saying that Utah's laws apply to Utah citizens abroad you are saying that Utah has a right to legislate to them past its borders, and thus could even legislate anything outside of its borders. This, under the terms of the Union Constitution, is unacceptable, and you know that."
The Senate then held a vote, striking down Hinckley's law by a margin of 42-1. In their statement, they specifically highlighted that the decision does not mean that it condemns Utah's abortion laws- it merely states that it has no ability to enforce its laws outside of its border. The press release was issued minutes later.