North Carolina Legislature May Consider Bill on Crimes Against Pregnant Women
by Steven Ertelt
March 2, 2009
Raleigh, NC (LifeNews.com) — North Carolina is one of 14 states with no law that offers protection and justice for pregnant women and unborn children who are victims of assault or homicide. Other states allow two charges for the two crimes but North Carolina law fails to charge for the death of or injury to the unborn child.
With the case of Jenna Nielsen, the legislature may debate the issue.
Jenna was expecting the birth of her third child, Ethen, with whom she was eight months pregnant, when, in 2007, an unknown assailant murdered her and her unborn child.
Now her family is lobbying members of the legislature to change state law to recognize the death of unborn children as separate victims of similar crimes.
"It’s just gut-wrenching to find out that not only did you lose your daughter and your grandchild, but that your grandchild is not even recognized," Nielsen’s father, Kevin Blaine of Raleigh, told the Journal newspaper.
Pro-life groups and legislators have rallied behind an Unborn Victims bill in past sessions only to see Democrats, who control the General Assembly, turn back the bills by not allowing hearings.
Rep. Dale Folwell and Sen. Pete Brunstetter are leading an effort this year to change the law, though their bill isn’t quite what pro-life advocates want.
"These women have chosen to keep their children," Folwell said. "That choice was not taken away from them by a legislator but by a murderer."
Another legislator, Democratic Sen. Doug Berger, has filed a bill that isn’t as extensive because it doesn’t offer protection for pregnant throughout pregnancy. It only covers them after 20 weeks of pregnancy, discriminating against them in the earlier stages of pregnancy.
Because he is a Democrat and because his bill isn’t as expansive, Berger’s legislation may be the vehicle that moves through the legislature and would be a first step to protecting unborn children and offering them justice as well.
Berger told the Journal that his bill may get a hearing this year, but only if Republicans promise not to offer amendments to it that would expand the bill and make it more like the one Folwell and Brunstetter are supporting.
The bills are also drawing opposition from North Carolina Right to Life because they don’t specifically acknowledge two victims.
"It’s not recognizing two victims — it’s only recognizing two charges. And we want the unborn child named as a victim," NCRTL president Barbara Holt says.
"I understand their goal, and I understand their thinking on this matter, but we see this as moving away from what they’re trying to do," Holt said, "because if (the more moderate bill) passes, people are going to think this matter is settled."
Another Republican legislator, Rep. Mark Hilton, is planning to file a bill that would recognize both unborn child and his mother as victims, and that is the bill pro-life advocates support the most. However, it likely has little chance of getting a hearing.
The divide has upset the families of victims.
"I’m not Republican, I’m not Democrat. I’m not pro-life, I’m not pro-choice," Kevin Blaine, the father of Jenna Nielsen, told the Journal. "I don’t want to team up with any side. What I want to do is team up with everybody."
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