Fetal homicide and abortion

by La Shawn Barber
Posted on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, at 3:04 pm

I read an article at LifeNews.com about a habitual drunk driver in Texas with multiple DWI convictions who killed a child in 2000 and pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide. In his most recent drunk driving episode, he hit a car driven by a pregnant woman, killing her unborn baby. He's been charged with murder.

Texas is one of at least 38 states that recognize unborn babies as victims of violence, and the majority apply the law through every stage of gestation. In 2003, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a fetal homicide bill into law that excludes a "lawful medical procedure performed by a physician or other licensed health care provider with the requisite consent." Because the U.S. Supreme Court discovered that women have a right to privacy to have their unborn babies killed, legal termination of pregnancy falls outside the statutes.

Under fetal homicide laws, an unborn baby is a protected person. Under Roe v. Wade, an unborn baby (at least during the first-trimester) is an unprotected, non-viable, biological organism. In one scenario, killing the baby during the commission of a felony can get you charged with murder. In a different scenario, killing the baby because the mother doesn't want a huge belly to ruin her summer at the beach is a medical procedure. But if the same pregnant woman is on her way to Planned Parenthood to terminate, and a drunk driver hits her …

For years I've tried to wrap my mind around the shifting status of an unborn baby and make sense of the rationale. The baby is worthy of protection only if the mother wants him. Otherwise, he, or rather it, is a problem that needs fixing. If someone other than a doctor or licensed healthcare provider (who has the mother's consent) causes his death, the perpetrator might be punished. The mother's choice trumps all other considerations. If she chooses to carry the baby, he's a person. If she doesn't, he isn't.

Perhaps I'm not supposed to wrap my mind around it. The confusion about and the tension between the two scenarios probably are intentional. Like laws against race- and sex-based abortion, fetal homicide laws seem designed to confound the so-called "pro-choice" position. The baby has a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of race or sex, but he has no right to live. The wanted baby has rights as a victim of violent and criminal acts, but the unwanted baby has no rights as a victim of the violent act of abortion.

It's probably difficult even for abortion supporters to perceive the baby as mere tissue (diseased?) with fetal homicide and non-discriminatory abortion laws on the books. And that is the point. The more the law recognizes the unborn child as a person with rights, the harder it is to be casual about his death. The more technology improves, the more we know about fetal development. Science reveals the awesomeness of this miracle formed in the womb, and we bear witness to God's ultimate purpose behind it.

La Shawn Barber

La Shawn is a former WORLD columnist.

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