by Steven Ertelt
March 12, 2008
Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — A bill in the Florida legislature that would offer protection and justice for pregnant women and their unborn children who are victims of violence received approval from a House committee Wednesday. The measure would expand and strengthen the state’s unborn victims law.
Florida is one of 36 states with an unborn victims law that allows prosecutors to charge criminals twice when they kill or injure both mother and child in an assault.
However, the state is one of 10 whose laws don’t offer the protection and justice for women and children throughout the entirety of pregnancy.
It only considers an unborn child worth of protection after viability, meaning criminals are not held accountable for the death of or injury to a baby beforehand.
Rep. Ralph Poppell, a Vero Beach legislator, wants to change that. His bill HB513 would have the state law conform to the national version Congress approved and President Bush signed that protects mother and child throughout pregnancy.
"It just says that, ‘Look, if you commit this crime and it’s against a pregnant lady and the baby dies, you’ll be charged twice,’" Poppell said, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The House Committee on Home Security & Public Safety approved the measure on Wednesday on a party-line vote with Republicans backing it and Democrats opposed.
Democrats, including Rep. Ari Porth, contended the law is about abortion, even though abortion is specifically exempted in it.
"It’s a clever guise to bring the abortion debate to the Florida Legislature," Porth claimed, according to the newspaper.
He put forward several amendments to remove mention of the unborn child from the bill, but they were all defeated.
The measure applies even when the defendant doesn’t know the woman is pregnant, using a criminal law concept known as transferred intent that would similarly hold a shooter accountable for killing someone when firing into a crowd. It would apply to a drunk driver who kills a pregnant mother and child as well.
The bill has two more committee debates and votes before it would head to the House floor and a companion measure has yet to receive a hearing in the Florida Senate.
ACTION: Contact your member of the Florida House and urge strong support for HB 513.Go here for contact information.