Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fetal homicide must be penalized

I’m sure you heard of the horrific violence perpetuated by Dynel Lane in Colorado earlier this year. She attacked Michelle Wilkins, whom she had lured with an online ad for baby clothes, and beat and choked Wilkins who was seven months pregnant – that is, until Lane did the unfathomable and cut the baby from Wilkins with a kitchen knife because she wanted a baby she could call her own. Of course, the baby – named Aurora -- died from the shock.

What’s almost as disgusting as the act itself is how Lane was treated – and how Aurora was mistreated – by Colorado’s legal system. Prosecutors did not charge Lane with homicide in the brutal murder of the baby. That’s because Colorado is one of thirteen states where there is not a fetal homicide law on the books which would include personhood for the unborn in violent incidents such as this.  

Colorado officials, and even the state’s voters via referendum, have consistently voted down such measures because they fear that it would, in turn, classify abortions as illegal.

If there is any one incident that highlights how wrongheaded that is in so many ways, it’s this one.

Imagine the love and the bond that Michelle Wilkins had for young Aurora after seven months together, the handful of sonograms that showed the young life, the heartbeats that reinforced those images and the kicking that showed someone raring to come out. Aurora was just as real in the womb and her family’s hearts as she would be if she were resting in a bassinet.

If you are remotely human and possess just the smallest amount of love in your heart, and even if you support abortion, you know that this was murder – undeniably and unequivocally.

Yet, as universal as love is to the human condition, we do not permit laws to exist that would penalize such murders because so many people are afraid to admit what those with respect for life know to be true – it doesn’t matter if someone is seven months or seven weeks pregnant; there is a life in there.

It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever change abortion laws, but we can change their ugly domino effects which directly or indirectly allow fetal homicide and treat it as nothing more than a punch to the gut of the expectant mother.

Some legislatures have already taken it upon themselves to right that wrong. Twenty-nine states grant full coverage to unborn victims, and recognize them as victims from the moment of conception. Eight other states grant victimhood to the unborn after what would be the period of viability.

Here in New York, though, it’s not so cut and dry. Under statutory law, the killing of an “unborn child” after twenty-four weeks of pregnancy is homicide. But under a separate statutory provision, a “person” that is the victim of a homicide is defined as a “human being who has been born and is alive.” That Jekyll and Hyde approach has led to an amalgamation of sentencing, which, more often than not, has treated the perpetrator with far more respect than the child who was murdered in the womb.

In previous legislative sessions in Albany, some senators tried to correct and clarify by introducing laws that would match those of the 29 states that grant victimhood for their entire period of gestation. But, those attempts were turned back by the Assembly.

It’s something that needs to happen, because we can assume – even know -- that hundreds of deaths occur each year in the wombs of New Yorkers as an outcome of brutal domestic violence. Those tragic deaths don’t make the papers because, by not having been granted personhood to the babies in the eyes of the law, police reports only indicate the simple or aggravated assault committed against the pregnant woman.

The Niagara County Sheriff’s office responds to 4,000 domestic calls a year, while Niagara Falls police arrest 1,000 people a year for domestic violence. There are tens of thousands of such across the state. How many of those involved fetal homicide? How many more incidences went unreported? One can only assume there were numerous bruised and battered women out there who didn’t say a word because their child was “only” a few weeks along.

Life is important at no matter the stage. It’s time we treated it like that and punished those who take it. Why should we be robbed of the Aurora Wilkinses of the world while those who take them from us can roam free? 

From the 04 May 2015 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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