Saturday, September 12, 2009
Vermont Right To Life Lobbying For State Fetal Homicide Law
The Vermont Right to Life Committee is pushing the state Legislature to create a law criminalizing "fetal homicide" in response to the death of a woman's twin fetuses in a car accident, Vermont Public Radio reports. The state is not investigating the accident as a fatal crash because a fetus is not considered a person under Vermont criminal law, VPR reports.
Mary Hahn Beerworth, a member of Vermont Right to Life, is leading the group's efforts to get the state Legislature to consider a bill that would make it a special crime to harm a fetus, either through intent or negligence. She said that 36 states have some version of a fetal homicide law. State Sen. Richard Sears (D), chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he will study the issue and other states' laws more closely before making a decision on the proposal. He added that he would consult Senate leadership before moving forward.
Allen Gilbert, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, said criminal prosecution for fetal death was addressed in the early 1990s after a similar accident occurred. State lawmakers extended penalties for grossly negligent operation of a vehicle with death resulting, which includes serious injuries, VPR reports. Gilbert said that the law "produced the result of broadening the offense to cover fetal death because the mother is almost always a victim of serious bodily injury in a crash where her fetus dies."
Cheryl Hanna, a legal analyst at the Vermont Law School, said Vermont allows lawsuits "for the loss of a fetus, so the Legislature has allowed for it in the civil context but not in the criminal context." Hanna said passing a fetal homicide law in Vermont could be difficult because of the strong support for abortion rights in the Legislature. Fetal homicide laws are "very politically motivated," she said, adding that the "theory is if you continue to have states grant fetuses independent rights, that would ultimately undermine Roe v. Wade and attack legal abortion" (Keese, Vermont Public Radio, 8/25).
Reprinted with kind permission from http://www.nationalpartnership.org. You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.