I’ve been musing over this one for a little while and I’m eager to hear what you think. Recently, a Texas Court ruled that a fetus can be murdered, but not by abortion.
Texas laws allow the killing of a fetus to be prosecuted as murder, regardless of the stage of development, but the laws do not apply to abortions, the state’s highest criminal court has ruled.
The Court of Criminal Appeals announced the ruling Wednesday, rejecting an appeal by Terence Lawrence, who said his right to due process was violated when he was prosecuted for two murders in the killings of a woman and her 4- to 6-week-old fetus.
The court ruled unanimously that state laws declaring a fetus an individual with protections do not conflict with the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that women have a constitutional right to abortion.
Now, I have made my feelings on sentences for the killing of fetuses very clear in the past. In this case, I’m very glad that the court ruled that violently causing the miscarriage of a pregnancy is different from abortion. It is different. But murder?
Personally, I am someone who sees little value in a several week old embryo. But I also know that for women who want to be pregnant, their several week old embryos do have a whole lot of value. I’m completely okay with that.
What bothers me, though, is that this type of ruling takes the focus off of the female victim. In this case, the woman was murdered. In others, she may have “just” been beaten. Regardless, whenever a forced miscarriage takes place, there is always a female victim. A live, grown, breathing woman who has a life, a history, etc. She is the one here that we ought to be concerned about.
And my concern for her is what makes me want violently or non-consensually inducing a miscarriage to be a crime. In murder cases, yes, killing a woman who is visibly pregnant or whom the perpetrator knows to be pregnant probably makes the crime more heinous. In non-murder cases, many if not most women would want to see justice for the crime committed against them and their fetuses/embryos.
And I agree with them. Forcibly inducing an unwanted miscarriage should be a punishable crime. I don’t think that we should just tack it on to an existing case, i.e. giving a harsher sentence for a beating that results in a miscarriage verses one that did not. That gives the impression that the murder of a pregnant woman is somehow worse than the murder of a non-pregnant woman, and that for a woman who is currently gestating, a violent attack isn’t quite as bad. So I agree that we should make killing another woman’s fetus through violence or coercion a crime, and a crime separate from the general assault — but it should still be considered a crime against the woman and not as highly punishable as the assault charge. Instead of talking about “killing fetuses” we need to talk about “violently causing a woman to miscarry.” [There is information about current U.S. laws here. It seems to me that they all define killing a fetus as murder or manslaughter, but someone who understands legal jargon will have to verify that.]
And no, it should not be considered murder. There is absolutely no way that I think that an embryo or a fetus has either more or equal worth than the woman carrying it, except to maybe the woman herself. I also don’t think that a fetus is a person. And that’s what murder is: the killing of another person.
Though the court has separated abortion from the crime of “killing a fetus,” quite frankly it just doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is one killing of a fetus okay and the other is not? Well, because one is consensual by the woman and the other isn’t, which is what I would like to see the law based upon. But the argument here is based on the fetus itself, not on the woman, or the crime wouldn’t be called murder. And since I don’t see why I should be able to kill my husband legally but it’s murder when someone else does . . . I’m stumped. It doesn’t work that way.
Either a fetus has rights or it doesn’t. I say that it certainly should not. But I don’t think that I’m going to be the only one to catch on to the double-standard and ask “why?” It’s not exactly a giant leap. If the public comes to see a fetus as a person with rights before asking this question, well, we know where that’s headed.
So just like with abortion, I think that a model of forced miscarriage as crime should be about protecting women’s rights and preventing violence against women. Causing a purposeful/violent miscarriage is just as bad as denying women the access to abortion (or worse, in the case of physical assault). For me, it is about bodily autonomy. It comes down to a woman getting to make that decision, it comes down to a woman’s right to be pregnant and it comes down to women having the right to not be beaten at all, let alone the right to not be beaten and then overlooked for the embryo she was carrying.
Even though this ruling shouldn’t have any effect on abortion rights, it does. Not only for the law changes that it could potentially inspire down the road, but on how we see things now. Every time we theoretically remove a fetus from its dependence on a woman’s body, it affects abortion rights. Any time we look past the woman to see the fetus, it affects women’s rights — including the rights of those who have or want to have children. To call killing a fetus murder takes away from what has actually been done to the injured woman, and to call killing a pregnant woman a double-homicide minimizes the impact and understanding of actual murder.
I think that this violent fucker should be in jail. But I can’t agree with the entire basis they used to put him there.
What are your thoughts?