Rhode Island Legislator Proposes Unborn Victims of Violence Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Rhode Island Legislator Proposes Unborn Victims of Violence Bill

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
March 15, 2004

Providence, RI (LifeNews.com) — Rep. Joanne Giannini (D-Providence) has introduced legislation that could protect Rhode Island residents from criminal violence while in their mother’s womb. The legislation is currently in the House Judicary Committee, where hearings were conducted last week.

While Rhode Island is currently one of the 29 states that already make it a crime to kill an unborn child in a criminal act, it is one of 13 states that only do so from the point of viability, or from the point the mother feels the movement of the unborn child, also referred to as a “quick” child.

Rep. Giannini’s bill, H7048 would allow for charges of murder, manslaughter, assault or battery in cases where an unborn child was harmed in a criminal act, while the current statute allows only for manslaughter charges in the death of an unborn child.|

“It is poor public policy to include any sort of time based standard in feticide statutes because it creates injustices,” says Mary Ellen McQueeney-Lally, a lobbyist with Rhode Island Right to Life Committee. “The child who is one day from quickening deserves as much protection as the child one day after quickening.”

McQueeney-Lally says the law should not apply only to viable unborn children.

“The reason quickening was introduced into the law was to prevent punishment when there was no pregnancy. At the time, the movement of the baby was the only certain evidence of unborn life,” McQueeny-Lally wrote in a letter to Rep. Giannini. “Now of course, pregnancy can be verified very early on. Thus, there is no need to use a time based restriction out of fear of convicting someone for a crime that did not occur because the victim did not exist.”

Such insensitivity to one victim’s suffering by ignoring another victim is what supporters of the unborn victims laws, in Rhode Island and throughout the country, hope to address.

Charmaine Holbrook of Kentucky, who lost her unborn child last summer in an automobile accident, spoke at a January rally for the Kentucky "fetal homicide" law that passed in February. 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 — a fact that has made her suffering more difficult.

"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."

Last month the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a federal Unborn Victims of Violence law, and the Senate is expected to vote on it by next week.

In California, Scott Peterson has been charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner, due to California’s Unborn Victims law. Jury selection began last week in the case that received national attention.