Policy Issue 2, Life: Newborn Homocide BillJan 13, 2010
This is the second in a series of five policy statements on issues that will come before the 2010 General Assembly. The first, regarding parental rights, can be found here. Each statement covers one of The Family Foundation's five areas of principle. The others will follow over the rest of the week.
Just a few days before Christmas, Virginians learned of an appalling story from Campbell County in which a mother allegedly suffocated her infant to death when it was only moments old. Worse, no charges were filed against the mother. Why has this murder essentially been condoned by the authorities? Because the child was umbillically attached when murdered.
Virginia law is unclear about whether a born child who remains umbilically attached is a "separate and independent life" and, therefore, accorded basic human rights — such as life! The legal standard was set in Lane v. Commonwealth, where the Virginia Supreme Court held that in order to bring charges against someone who killed a newborn, it must be proven that:
» The child is born alive,
» Has an independent and separate existence from the mother, and
» The accused is the criminal agent that caused the death.
Incredibly, the court saw a distinction between a child "born alive" and one having an "independent and separate existence" from the mother. Abortion advocates are so desperate to protect their "right" to abortion that they blur the lines of homicide as well — the law has been crafted in such a way as to allow for a class of cases in which the criminal code no longer is applied.
For those of us who are pro-life, murder and abortion are synonymous. However, to our opponents, the start of life is ambiguous and even the "I know it when I see it" pornography standard isn't concrete enough to be applied to life. They are always moving the target, always excusing, always apologizing. But no matter what anyone believes about abortion, there is no reasonable argument for the murder of a newly born infant.
Virginia has a partial birth infanticide law and we are investigating whether that law could be applied here. But the action alleged in the Campbell County case is so heinous that is needs to be addressed in our criminal code as well.
Over a year ago state Senator Robert Hurt (R-19, Chatham) began investigating how to make Virginia’s law stronger in this area. He urged the Virginia Crime Commission to study the issue and propose legislative changes, but the commission only did so after being forced to by Senator Hurt and Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville). We have contacted the Alliance Defense Fund and they are reviewing possible legislative remedies for this situation.
Several years ago, a similarly disturbing incident took place in which a pregnant woman shot herself in the stomach on her due date and was not prosecuted for anything more than unlawful discharge of a firearm. She paid a small fine and nothing was added to her record. The Family Foundation took the legislative initiative to address this issue, but the bill was defeated in the Senate Education and Health committee.
This year, The Family Foundation is supporting an Infant Born Alive Act (HB 1033), patroned by Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), in the General Assembly in response to the Campbell County incident. Legislators will get yet another opportunity to fix the loophole in the law and protect Virginia’s infant children. Let’s pray that they recognize life when they see it and support life-protecting legislation.