by Steven Ertelt
October 1, 2007
Honolulu, HI (LifeNews.com) — A Hawaii state legislator plans to propose a bill he says will help protect pregnant women who are victims of violence there. However, pro-life advocates say the bill won’t protect women properly because it fails to acknowledge the death of or injury to their unborn child and punish criminals for the attack on the baby.
State Rep. Tommy Waters is behind the bill to make those who attack pregnant women get tougher prison sentences.
He said he would rely on current laws that apply harsher sentences to people who attack elderly residents, children or the disabled.
Waters’ proposal comes after a terrible attack on a pregnant woman and her teenage son on the Big Island in June.
Tyrone Vesperas, a National Guard member who had served in Iraq, was arrested after he allegedly stabbed his estranged wife several times. The unborn baby didn’t survive and the teenage boy was killed in the attack.
Waters, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper that he is hoping to avoid a debate on abortion by proposing a bill that protects both mother and child.
But opposition from pro-life groups and lawmakers is sure to come because he is leaving out the second victim in attacks on pregnant mothers.
"I’m trying to figure out a way to protect the mother and the fetus without getting into the abortion debate," he said. "And I think we’ve come up with a solution."
His bill would make criminals who attack pregnant women face mandatory minimum sentences without the possibility of parole for felony cases or when the victim should have known the woman was pregnant.
State Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican from Kahala has tried to approve bills similar to those in 35 other states that protect both mother and child. He told the newspaper he opposes Waters’ idea because it leaves out the baby, who may have been killed or injured.
"It’s an end-around so they don’t have to deal with the fetus," he said.
Other lawmakers such as State Rep. John Mizuno are looking at similar bills as well.