New Mexico House OKs Limited Unborn Victims of Violence Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 10, 2011   |   7:13PM   |   Santa Fe, NM

The New Mexico state House approved today a bill that would provide justice and protection for some pregnant women and their unborn children when attacked in violent crimes.

New Mexico is not one of the 35 states that recognize a second crime when a criminal attacks a pregnant woman and also kills or injures her unborn child. because a case occurred in the state in 2009 where a criminal could not be held accountable, lawmakers assembled legislation this year to address the subject.

The House passed the “little Isaac” bill in memory of the child who died in the crime and supported the legislation on a 63-5 vote, which sends the bill to the state Senate for consideration. The legislation specifically indicates the bill does not apply in cases involving abortion.

In September 2009, Marino Leyba, Jr. was accused of killing 17-year-old Sarah Lovato, her father and Lovato’s nine-month-old unborn child. Leyba reportedly shot Lovato twice in the back and once in the stomach and prosecutors say he purposefully targeted the unborn baby, whom the couple planned to name Isaac.

After killing her partner and her unborn baby, Leyba, a security guard who was off duty at the time, turned his gun on Bennie Lovato, Sr., 50, and shot him three times. Leyba later admitted to his father that he shot Sarah Lovato, the baby, and her father.

Although the baby died, Leyba can’t be held accountable for killing the child under state law.

Gary C. Mitchell of Ruidoso, the president of the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, eventually represented Leyba as he attempted to avoid prosecution by pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. The man was eventually convicted of murder for their deaths, but not for killing the baby.

After the killing, state Rep. Larry Larrañaga, an Albuquerque Republican, said he planned to ask former Gov. Bill Richardson to allow a debate on an unborn victims bill.

Larrañaga also introduced such a bill in 2005 but it was attacked by abortion advocates who do not want to acknowledge that unborn children can be victims of violent crimes. He is the sponsor of the measure this year, House Bill 30.

“It has brought comfort to the Lovato family because they were there every time to assure that little Isaac did not die in vain,” he told his colleagues today.

The bill, unfortunately, does not apply to all pregnancies and leaves some women and unborn children unprotected. it defines an unborn child as receiving protection after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Rep. Brian Egolf, a Democrat, said that could present problems.

“”You’ll have a situation potentially where a fetus can be aged 19 weeks and five days and there is no crime but if the fetus is aged 20 days and three days there is a crime,” said Egolf, a lawyer, according to the Las Cruces Sun. “That is an element of proof that will never be proved in a court of law in the state of New Mexico.”

“If we’re going to pass a law, I want a law that is effective, that does what it’s meant to do and will result in justice,” he added.