Bill Now Goes Back to the House for Concurrence
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — North Carolina moved a step closer to birthing a fetal homicide law on Thursday with the Senate’s passage of Ethen’s Law, 45 to 4. Named after Ethen Nielsen, murdered in 2007 when his mother was stabbed to death weeks before his anticipated birth, the law simply recognizes that when a pregnant woman is injured, there are two victims.
“Today’s vote in the Senate is the culmination of nearly a quarter of century of work on the part of some dedicated lawmakers and many grieving families who have put their own pain aside to help prevent others from experiencing the same kind of devastation,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “This law will bring North Carolina in line with 35 other states that recognize our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable victims.”
Because of a technical change made in committee, the measure will have to go back to the House for concurrence. The House had earlier given its stamp of approval to H 215 by a vote of 77-35.
Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) told fellow legislators Thursday that Ethen’s Law, modeled after the federal Laci and Conner Act codified in 2004, recognizes that “children who are wanted and desired by their parents have a place in this society and deserve to be protected by our criminal statutes.” He said it would also end the dichotomy that forces crimes on federal property such as the Blue Ridge Parkway to be prosecuted one way while those in the rest of the state are handled in another way.
Senators rejected two proposed amendments: one from Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird (D-Orange) that would have kept the law from applying to babies prior to their 20th week of development; and one from Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) that would have required the state to prove that a perpetrator knew or should have known that his victim was pregnant at the time of the crime.
“I think we all have an opportunity in defeating this amendment and passing this bill to simply give fair warning to all potential perpetrators that if you harm a woman who’s within those years that she could be pregnant that you can expect, that if she is, you are going to be charged with a second murder,” said Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover). “It’s clear and simple. Let it go forth that that’s going to be the law in North Carolina. You are here forewarned.”
Sen. Doug Berger (D-Franklin) said he usually agrees with the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the bill, but would not in this case.
“I am a pro-choice Democrat, and in part that is why I am voting for this bill, because I think it reflects when a woman chooses to have a pregnancy that that be recognized in the law; that if you take that away there should be appropriate punishment,” he said. “…It reflects a pro-choice value in upholding a woman’s right to choose pregnancy.”