Kentucky Unborn Victims Bill Continues to Advance, Courts Get Involved
by Paul Nowak
February 17, 2004
Frankfort, KY (LifeNews.com) — A 2001 automobile accident in which a pregnant woman and her unborn child died may become the first challenge to Kentucky’s unborn victims of violence legislation, due to the rapid progress the bill is making.
The Senate Judiciary committee passed HB 108 Thursday, a bill that would expand the definition of a homicide to include unborn children from the moment of conception. The bill, which previously passed the House, now goes to the full Senate. If it passes there without amendment, Governor Ernie Fletcher is expected to sign it into law.
As the legislation includes an "emergency clause," it will become effective immediately.
The Kentucky Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments in the death of Veronica Jane Thornsbury who was in labor when she was killed in an automobile accident March 25, 2001 by a driver who was speeding and ran a red light while under the influence of drugs.
Charles Christopher Morris, the driver, was charged with two counts of murder.
In a plea bargain agreement, Morris pleaded guilty to both counts, but appealed the charge for the unborn child, as Kentucky has no law allowing for such a charge, even at such a late term. He is currently serving two concurrent 10-year sentences.
If the "fetal homicide" law is passed before the Supreme Court issues a ruling, such grounds will not exist, and the Court will have an opportunity to uphold the constitutionality of the bill shortly after it is passed.
Lawsuits against similar laws in other states have been turned back and the unborn victims laws have been upheld by the courts in every instance.
Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville), predicted the legislation will come to a vote this week, especially considering that the Senate passed a similar bill, SB 4, in January.
"I believe that it’s a good, strong piece of legislation that will protect the unborn," said Williams.
A difference in the two bills is the limit to penalties – SB 4 allowed for the death penalty, while HB 108 does not. The distinction has earned HB 108 the endorsement from the Kentucky Catholic Conference and the Kentucky Right to Life Association.
"Far too long have Kentucky mothers been told that their unborn children don’t matter in the eyes of the law when those children are killed or injured because of the criminal acts of others," said Kentucky Right to Life Association in a statement.
"We are hopeful that the KY Senate will be cognizant of the emergency provision on the bill and act quickly and vote for HB 108, with no amendments. Kentucky Right to Life Association supports the bill, as is, and we look forward with joyful anticipation to the day when this bill becomes Kentucky law."
According to the National Right to Life Committee, 28 states have unborn victims laws, including 15 that cover mothers and their unborn children throughout pregnancy.
The presentation of three bills in the Kentucky legislature to protect unborn children this session, HB 108, HB 3, and SB 4, comes after numerous violent crimes and automobile accidents claimed the lives of several unborn children — none of which were ever recognized as being alive by the courts.
Charmaine Holbrook who lost her unborn child last summer in an automobile accident, spoke at a rally for Rep. Lee’s bill earlier this month. The other driver, who tried to pass in a no-passing zone, will be tried for a single charge of assault on Holbrook. He won’t be held accountable for killing her baby.
"That man won’t spend one day — not one day in jail for killing my daughter," Holbrook said in a choked voice. "That’s unthinkable."
More recently, the body of 18-year-old Ashley Renee Lyons was found shot to death in her car in January. Her family had just found out hours before her death that she was five months pregnant.
"My grandbaby was alive. I saw pictures of him," said Lyons’ mother, Carol.
Related web sites:
Kentucky Right to Life – https://www.krla.org
State Unborn Victims Laws Challenges – https://www.nrlc.org/Unborn_Victims/statechallenges.html