Fetal Homicide Laws Are a Problem for Pro-Choicers

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 04/29/2015

A recent murder in Colorado has been shaking up the state. Dynel Lane lured a woman who was seven months pregnant to her home and cut her daughter, Aurora, out of her womb. Aurora didn’t survive.

Because Colorado law didn’t allow for prosecuting Lane for murder, a fetal homicide bill has been proposed. As with California’s fetal homicide law (yes, even California has one!), the bill excludes any kind of abortion:

Under the new bill, prosecutors would be allowed to pursue murder and assault charges in cases involving “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”

The language said it wouldn’t apply to acts committed by the mother, medical procedures or legally prescribed medication.

Even though the bill specifically excludes deaths caused by the mother’s choice, the pro-choice politicians are objecting to it. They don’t want to set a legal precedent by calling an unborn human being a “person,” even if the cases it applies to are strictly limited. This fear is understandable. In order to protect abortion, they can’t allow a logical foot in the door. Once you admit that a fetus can be “murdered,” you raise questions that are difficult for pro-choicers to answer. David Harsanyi explains:

The truth is that pro-choice advocates don’t want district attorneys prosecuting people for killing fetuses because it sets up two dangerous debates.

First, the act of humanizing unborn babies that women want to keep means humanizing unborn babies others do not want to keep. Aurora got a name, but the other third-trimester babies disposed of aren’t as fortunate.

Secondly, any admission by liberals that life in the womb is human life worthy of protections sets up a host of uncomfortable philosophical questions and legal precedents. For starters, how can the act of killing a fetus—granted, for different purposes and with very different levels of violence—end a human life in one instance and not the other?

This murder has upset the people of Colorado, and with good reason. Real life examples can sometimes reveal moral truths to us in a way that propositional arguments can’t. There’s currently a law against “unlawful termination of pregnancy” in Colorado, but of course, that addresses the rights of the mother, not the child, and it carries different penalties from those for murder. Put a name to the deceased fetal human, and suddenly, “unlawful termination of pregnancy” doesn’t seem like enough—not when we know the question of whether or not Lane could be charged with murder depended entirely on whether or not the autopsy could prove Aurora lived outside the womb for at least a moment before dying. It’s obvious to people something is wrong with a law that makes that kind of an irrelevant distinction.

When it comes to standing against a law that would prosecute people like Lane for murdering fetal human beings like Aurora, these politicians would rather bite that bullet than create a law that might make people think a little too carefully. But if they’re worried about consistent, logical thinking leading from a fetal homicide law to fetal human rights, perhaps they should also worry about how their consistent thinking in rejecting a fetal homicide law will appear to the people of Colorado who viscerally recognize the morally horrific nature of this recent murder.

They risk people thinking too much either way.