by Steven Ertelt
April 4, 2007
Cheyenne, WY (LifeNews.com) — Last month, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal vetoed a measure approved by the state legislature that would protect pregnant women and their unborn children from acts of violence. The bill would allow prosecutors to charge criminals with two crimes when they kill a pregnant woman like Laci Peterson and her unborn child.
In a form letter Freudenthal’s office disseminated at the end of last week to constituents who contacted him supporting the bill, the governor’s policy analyst Robert Black misleads voters about the reasons why the governor vetoed the bill.
Black cites the Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade and says "SF 118 may also be unconstitutional" because the bill, "had it become law, would have implicitly defined any unborn fetus as a person."
However, Right to Life of Wyoming President Steven Ertelt says he told Governor Freudenthal that state and federal courts have upheld similar laws in 11 different states. Laws like SF 118 have never been found unconstitutional for any reason, including decisions relating to the landmark abortion case.
"I sat across from the governor before his veto and told him that the abortion issue had already been litigated and that Laci Peterson laws like SF 118 were found constitutional," Ertelt said.
Ertelt pointed to a unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 1987 regarding a similar Georgia law where an attorney for a man, Richard James Smith, Sr., convicted under the law sued saying the statute conflicted with Roe.
"The proposition that Smith relies upon in Roe v. Wade — that an unborn child is not a ‘person’ within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment — is simply immaterial in the present context to whether a state can prohibit the destruction of a fetus," the court ruled.
Ertelt also pointed to the 1989 case of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services in which the Supreme Court refused to invalidate a Missouri statute that declares that "the life of each human being begins at conception."
The high court nullified a lower court’s ruling and held that a state is free to enact laws that recognize unborn children, so long as the state does not include restrictions on abortion that Roe forbids. SF 118 contains no reference to or restrictions on abortion.
Ertelt criticized the governor saying he is misleading constituents in saying SF 118 would be unconstitutional because of the Roe decision.
"Governor Freudenthal is an attorney and he should understand as well as anyone that courts have always upheld laws like SF 118," Ertelt said. "Courts have also upheld laws giving unborn children rights in a variety or circumstances that don’t conflict with Roe — including inheriting property, burial rights, and stopping executions until a pregnant woman on death row delivers the baby."
"To send letters statewide to constituents erroneously claiming the bill is potentially unconstitutional in the face of Roe proves Governor Freudenthal is more concerned about abortion than he is protecting the women and children of our state," Ertelt explained. "He owes Wyoming voters an apology."
In the letter, Black also says "there are already provisions in Wyoming law for protecting pregnant women" and points to existing statute giving a penalty enhancement for attacking a pregnant woman. As the governor said in his veto message, Black suggests that the legislature increase these penalties.
However, Ertelt says the sentence enhancement, considered a hate crimes provision by many, fails to address the issue.
"Current Wyoming law fails to hold criminals accountable for killing the unborn child," Ertelt said. "We know that when Laci Peterson was killed, her son Conner was killed as well. There were two victims, two crimes and Scott Peterson was charged with two murders under California law. We need a similar law here."
"Criminals should definitely be charged with attacking a pregnant mother, but they should also face repercussions for killing her baby as well," Ertelt added. "Failing to charge them will killing the baby is a travesty of justice and slap in the face for Wyoming women and children."
Ertelt said Right to Life of Wyoming would be working with legislators next year to pass the Laci Peterson bill again and to alter the language of the bill to address the governor’s concerns.