Editorial: Two deaths, not just one
Arguments in favor of state House Bill 215, The Unborn Victims of Violence Law, include a sad litany.
Jennifer Nielsen of Fuquay-Varina had been running her route as a newspaper carrier when she was stabbed and left dead behind a convenience store in 2007. The baby sheíd been carrying for eight and a half months ó a boy she planned to name Ethen ó was also dead.
April Greer of Alamance County was eight months pregnant when she was found dead and dismembered in a trash can in 2003, her unborn child dead, too.
Ebony Robinson was two weeks away from her due date when someone shot and murdered her in Hillsborough. Baby Elijah died, too.
And then thereís the story seared into Rowan Countyís collective memory ó the senseless death of Leanna Newman, eight months pregnant, and her unborn child after a crash involving a drunken driver in 2007.
Sadly, there are more. But hereís the point: While the first case remains unsolved, each killer in the other crimes was charged with only the motherís death. HB 215 would make state law recognize what families of these women know all too well ó they lost two loved lives.
Under the proposed law, co-sponsored by Rep. Fred Steen of Landis, anyone who causes the unlawful death or injury of an unborn child could face up to life in prison without parole. Someone who commits murder, manslaughter or assault against a pregnant woman could be guilty of the same crimes against the fetus.
Steen states the case for the bill strongly. ěIn North Carolina, causing a fetal demise of an otherwise viable fetus is only an aggravating factor and not a felony,î he says. ěAn aggravating factor can also be an empty beer can or open container of liquor during an investigation of a crime. This must change and this bill will allow that North Carolina recognizes the unborn as a person.î
The bill refers to fetuses ěat any stage of development,î but it steers clear of bringing abortion into consideration by referring to the ěunlawfulî death of the unborn. While many oppose abortion, it is legal. That is a battle for another day or another bill.
HB 215 ó also called Ethenís Law, in reference to the Nielsen case ó is modeled after a federal statute. About 35 states have something similar. North Carolina should follow suit. The bill is written in a way that recognizes peopleís rights while also making the charge better fit the seriousness of the crime. Families do not forget the unborn children they lose in these terrible crimes. The law should not forget them, either.