Texas Supreme Court: Stillborn Baby Not a Person Under Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 1, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Texas Supreme Court: Stillborn Baby Not a Person Under Law

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by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
September 1, 2004

Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — According to the Texas Supreme Court, an infant is not an individual until it draws its first breath. The definition was part of a decision handed down last week in the case of a couple who sued their hospital for wrongful death on behalf of their stillborn son.

On Friday, the court ruled 7-1 in a suit filed by Tara and Donnie Reese against a Fort Worth hospital. The suit alleged that the hospital staff could have delivered her baby viva Caesarean section, after she experienced excessive weight gain, dizziness and a racing pulse durin the later stages of her pregnancy in 1998.

A state district judge threw out the suit, and the 2nd Court of Appeals agreed that the Reese’s son was denied equal protection under the law. Last week’s decision overturned the Court of Appeals.

"It is kind of ridiculous that they are not recognizing him as a human being. It is appalling," Tara Reese told the Fort worth Star-Telegram. Reese called the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a part of the Appeals court ruling that stated she can sue for her mental anguish, a "slap in the face."

"We expected the decision of the Texas Supreme Court. It is unfortunate that Texas is one of only ten states in the country that does not allow wrongful-death claims for unborn children. The law needs to be changed," responded Joe Pojman, director of Texas Alliance for Life.

"The legislature needs to protect unborn babies from the gross negligence of a few bad doctors. Bad doctors need to be held accountable just like everyone else," Pojman said.

Under the Prenatal Protection Act passed in 2003, the Texas State Legislature gave unborn protection from crimes such as murder, assault, drunk driving, and criminal negligence, and allowed parents to sue for wrongful death of their unborn children — except in the case of medical providers.

Texas Alliance for Life said in a statement that they advocate expanding the law to include medical professionals, as the Prenatal Protection act defines a person as "a human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth."

President Bush signed a federal Unborn Victims of Violence Law in March.

Laci Peterson’s mother Sharon Rocha had voiced her support of the bill, and had criticized presidential hopeful John Kerry, who returned to Washington from the campaign trial to vote against the bill.

According to the National Right to Life Committee, 30 states have unborn victims laws, most recently Kentucky and Virginia, and 18 cover mothers and their unborn children throughout pregnancy.

Related web sites:
Texas Alliance for Life – https://www.texasallianceforlife.org