34-Week-Old Unborn Baby Dies After Driver Hits Pregnant Mom While High on Marijuana

State   |   Sarah Zagorski   |   May 6, 2015   |   4:10PM   |   Madison, WI

In Wisconsin, Brandon Russell is in policy custody after crashing into a pregnant woman and killing her 34-week unborn baby. Russell had his twin boys in the car with him during the incident and admitted to smoking marijuana prior to the crash. Channel 3 News reports that he was arrested for homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of THC, third-offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) with a passenger under 16, four counts of OWI causing injury, operating while suspended causing death and operating a motor vehicle without insurance.

According to National Right to Life, Wisconsin law allows prosecutors to charge assailants with homicide if they kill an unborn child at any stage of pre-natal development. Depending on the offense, they can be charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, second-degree intentional homicide, second-degree reckless homicide, homicide by negligent handling of dangerous weapon, homicide by intoxicated use of vehicle or firearm, or homicide by negligent operation of vehicle.

In the vehicle, the woman also had her four-year-old son with her and he is being treated at Rockford Memorial Hospital for possible internal injuries. Thankfully, it is likely that this woman will receive justice for her unborn baby’s death since Wisconsin has had a fetal homicide law in place since 1998. However, not all states in the U.S. have enacted laws that punish criminals who injury or kill unborn babies in violent crimes.

For example, in Colorado a pregnant woman lost her unborn baby after a car hit her while she walking on the sidewalk with family members. The woman, Leah Montgomery, was walking with her 18-month-old son and the child’s grandmother. Police confirmed that teenagers were driving the vehicle that hit the woman but prosecutors will not be able to bring charges for the unborn child’s death because Colorado state law does not regard unborn children as human beings who deserve justice when they are killed, even outside the context of abortion.



Currently, 36 states have fetal-homicide laws, 24 of which protect unborn children from the time of conception, and 38 states have wrongful-death laws, which protect unborn children at least after viability. In 2004, President Bush signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which protected unborn babies killed through violence. After it passed, Denise Burke, an attorney with Americans United for Life, said pro-life advocates must now turn their attention to state legislatures to make sure every woman is protected.

She said, “While the Unborn Victims of Violence Act is a significant victory for victims of violent crime and their families, it is important to remember that homicide is primarily a state crime, as opposed to a federal crime. So, it is critically important that all 50 states provide similar protection for the unborn.”