A New York court recently ruled that a Long Island woman who killed her baby in a car accident cannot be convicted because her baby was not a person yet.
The Times Union reports Jennifer Jorgensen previously was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter for causing the death of her baby daughter in a car crash. She also was indicted for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the report.
Jorgensen was in her third trimester when the car accident occurred in May 2008. Her daughter was delivered by C-section after the head-on collision and died six days later, according to the report.
In October, the New York Court of Appeals reversed Jorgensen’s conviction, ruling that she was not guilty because she fatally injured her daughter before she was born.
The court ruling compared Jorgensen’s actions to self-induced abortion and called it an offense that is “no greater than a misdemeanor.”
“… the central question in the case was whether the state Legislature intended ‘to hold pregnant women criminally responsible for engaging in reckless conduct against themselves and their unborn fetuses, such that they should be subject to criminal liability for prenatal conduct that results in postnatal death? Under the current statutory scheme, the answer to this question is no.’”
Not all of the judges agreed on the ruling. In a dissent, Judge Eugene Fahey wrote, “I cannot join in a result that analyzes our statutes to determine that a six-day-old child is not a person.”
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Conservative blogger Warner Todd Huston notes that as outrageous as the ruling may seem, the court is right that current state laws do not recognize unborn babies as “persons.” Jorgensen is no longer being held accountable for her baby’s death because, in the eyes of the state, her unborn daughter did not have the rights of personhood when her reckless behavior fatally injured her child.
Huston wrote, “In this case it is clearly the legislature’s fault, not the court’s, and shows how iffy it is to say that a human doesn’t count as human until after they are ‘born.’”
Currently in the U.S., 37 states recognize the unlawful killing of an unborn child as homicide in some circumstances, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
New York has two conflicting statutes about the protection of unborn children from violence, according to National Right to Life. One statute calls the killing of an unborn child after 24 weeks for reasons other than abortion “homicide.” However, a separate statutory provision defines the victim of a homicide as a “human being who has been born and is alive.”