Two Maryland legislators introduced the Laura and Reid’s Law this week to demand justice for unborn babies who are victims of homicide at all developmental stages.
The Sentinel reports the introduction of the bill that would amend Section 2-103 of Maryland criminal law to allow prosecution for an unborn child who died as a result of violence against the mother.
Currently, Maryland law only recognizes a viable unborn baby as a victim of fetal homicide. The bill would expand the law by applying a fetal homicide charge to “a fetus at any stage of development that is carried in the womb.”
State Sen. Justin Ready, R-Carroll County, and Del. Trent Kittleman, R-Howard and Carroll counties, sponsored the bill in memory of two recent homicide victims.
In October 2017, Tyler Tessier, of Maryland, only was charged with his girlfriend Laura Wallen’s murder, even though her 14-week unborn son Reid also died in the attack. Maryland’s fetal homicide law did not apply in this case, because Reid was not yet considered viable.
The bill’s co-sponsors said they are striving to find common ground, and highlighted the fact that in addition to protecting the unborn baby, this bill would protect women’s rights.
Ready explained, “The goal is to try to be sure we are protecting these vulnerable women and the children they are carrying.”
Kittleman agreed: “The law protects the rights of a pregnant woman who doesn’t want to have the child. The law must also protect the rights of a pregnant woman who does want to have a child. To protect her right to control the destiny of her own body, the law must recognize that someone who kills her unborn child regardless of the age of the fetus is committing murder.”
WTOP reports that according to statistics that Ready cited, homicide is the second leading cause of death for pregnant women, and 56 percent of pregnancy-related homicides are committed by intimate partners.
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State Del. David Moon, a Democrat, of the House Judiciary Committee, expresses concern about “re-triggering this whole debate about viability of the fetus versus unborn child.” He added, “That’s very likely to get us into a philosophical conversation instead of looking at the basics of a horrible murder.”
The horror of the murder applies to the unborn baby as well as the mother, regardless of whether the baby is viable. At 14 weeks, Reid’s heart was beating, his brain was functioning, and his body was sensitive to touch.
But under current Maryland law, as Reid’s grandfather, Mark Wallen, lamented: “Justice was not going to be done for my grandson. The law now says the life of my grandson doesn’t even exist.”
Maryland is not the only state that does not fully protect the unborn in homicide cases. Of the 38 states with fetal homicide laws, only 29 protect the unborn at all stages of development. These laws protect unborn babies who are victims of violence committed against their mothers; all include exceptions for abortion.