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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Laci Peterson and fetal murder

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Author Topic: Laci Peterson and fetal murder
wobblyheadedjane
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Where do cases like the Laci Peterson fit into the pro-choice/pro-life debate? Like the article says, Bush is all about making the harm of a fetus a crime. The discussion over the Peterson case seems hinged mostly on whether the fetus is viable or not. Does this matter? Should it be charged as a murder whether the fetus can live outside the mother's body or not?

Bush says that if this murder occurs as the result "of a crime of violence", and mentions nothing about abortion, but do people think it will cause a slipprier slope towards making legal abortion difficult to attain? (The National Organization for Women seems to have a problem with it, or at the least the president of the organization does.)

(Copied and pasted from here

So, what do you guys think? I haven't done enough research to come to a conclusion, but in order for someone to be charged with first degree murder, the prosecution has to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Scott Peterson intended to kill both his wife, and the fetus for the double murder charge to stick. While it seems pretty obvious that he knew killing his wife (the evidence for which is pretty solid, it appears), if it's a hardnosed jury, it might be tough. Of course, with Bush's seal of approval, who knows.

Speculations, opinions?


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Milke
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Causing a fetus to die is already a crime in California (which is where Ms Peterson was from). There's a section of the PC that makes an exception for abortion, but you might want to read BruinDan's post in the original thread for more info on the law.

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Milke, with an L, SSBD, RATS, TMNTP

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UKgirl
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to me it makes sense that if a someone causes a woman to miscarry against her will in a violent attack that should carry a higher penalty than if she had not miscarried (although I'm not sure about calling it murder). But, to me this is about it being a crime against the woman, not the foetus. So in my opinion (an emotional rather than legal one) this case should not be double murder. I admit I don't know that much about the case (I've only read the article that wobblyheadedjane linked to) but unless she was caused to miscarry before she died, and was therefore forced to experience the emotional loss, I think it makes very little difference whether she was pregnant. To put it bluntly, she is dead, she therefore has not had to grieve for a baby she wanted, in my opinion that should not be an extra crime. As I said before, to me causing a miscarriage that the woman does not want should be a crime because of the additional suffering caused to the woman, she did not experience that (as far as I know)
(I am sorry if this is really innacurate, I have not seen this story reported over here, and therefore know mothing!)

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frozendreams
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if im not mistaken laci was far enough in her pregnancy to where if she had that baby it would have lived. to me that would be murder because that baby would have been born and in the world today if not for his father.
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wobblyheadedjane
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Thanks Milke! I had read the code earlier this week, but it helps to know its here to refresh my memory. I agree with BruinDan's that altering the penal code to that an attack on a pregnant woman classified as mayhem might be useful in preventing confusion in distinguishing between malice and medical abortion procedures.

It seems also that the "California law permits a murder charge for a fetus if a pregnant woman is slain, even if the fetus is not viable". (Citation here.) So, the question of viability, at least in California, seems moot. But I feel that since the fetus was named, and clearly wanted by its mother, that its likely this was a deliberate attack on the both of them.

The other thing is the prosecution wants the death penalty for Scott Peterson if convicted. Personally, (when I'm not fence sitting, heh) I'm anti-capital punishment, and generally feel a lifetime in prison sans parole is punishment enough for many people.


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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by wobblyheadedjane:
I agree with BruinDan's that altering the penal code to that an attack on a pregnant woman classified as mayhem might be useful in preventing confusion in distinguishing between malice and medical abortion procedures.

Well I'm certainly glad somebody does! I had a hard time convincing a college professor, but we'll see how this case goes. If there is enough press coverage, anything is possible.

You're right that at this point, the question of viability is moot. Thanks to the wonders of the National Organization of Women, we now have case law that makes it possible to charge someone with murder for any assault upon a fetus that results in its demise. As stated in the other post, this is a shoot-yourself-in-the-foot sort of legislation, that was designed to be helpful but has since been turned about. If it is allowed to stand, you're going to have a broad interpretation of that law which will have the potential to levy all sorts of restriction on legalized abortion. Yet another case of how well-intentioned myopia can come back to bite you in the long run.

But before I get all doom-and-gloom on you, I should note that in my great state of California it is exceptionally difficult for a murder charge to be levied upon a fetus whose viability is in question. If a woman is five weeks pregnant and miscarries after being the victim in a car accident, for example, the at-fault driver would not receive a "negligent homicide" charge because District Attorneys would have an exceedingly difficult time proving the viability of a fetus. The same would be true if Laci Peterson had been murdered at a far earlier stage of pregnancy, and the same holds true for all sorts of criminal statutes. Even though a law is there, prosecutors need to have proof that goes well above and beyond the basic provisions of that law in order to prove it was violated. And this is especially true in thorny issues like fetal homicide, and even more especially true where capital punishment is concerned.

The latter issue really doesn't bother me all that much. For a long time I was one of those folks who'd feel one way about capital punishment one month, and another way the next. My opinions vacillated quite a bit until I got a job where I was able to see firsthand some of the most despicable crimes imaginable. After repeated episodes like that, and after seeing how well murderers and rapists have it in prisons that are often more like country clubs than anything else, my views began to change. (It should be noted that even the most violent of prison inmates are assured a warm bed, climate-controlled facilities, a weight room, sports equipment, television, and three solid meals a day...which is often far more than any of us law-abiding folk may have access to, and certainly far more often than most schools in California have access to!) If Scott Peterson is convicted (and not to pick on frozendreams, but we've got a lovely thing called the presumption of innocence in this country that basically means we probably shouldn't be calling Scotty a murderer yet, even though most reasonable people are already wholly convinced that he's guilty as sin) of double homicide in this case, I wouldn't have any problem with him receiving the death penalty. I'd certainly like to see more safeguards added into capital punishment statutes before I feel perfectly comfortable with it, but as far as this case goes, I wouldn't bat an eye. (And, incidentally, we've got a Death Penalty thread somewhere around here already...so anything directed towards that topic would probably be a perfect fit over there)

UKgirl, I must say that adding emotion into legal statutes is just about the most dangerous thing one can possible do. When you start injection emotional arguments into a basis for law, you result in things like the radical right who want to kick foreigners out of a country ('cuz they ain't like us!) and ban abortion ('cuz it ain't right for the 18-day-old bunch o' teeny lil' cells). It's the same logic that got Jim Crow legislation enacted in my country's recent past, and the same bit of emotion that got the old-school Democratic party to keep slavery going for as long as it did.

I understand that someone usually has to have an emotional connection to something before legislation about that something gets written, voted on, and instituted; but one needs to be careful how far one takes it. If you are going to use emotional pain as a basis for fetal murder, you're opening up a world of trouble for women who study their options carefully and decide that abortion is the best option for them at that time. Sometimes legal abortion results in emotional pain or feelings of loss, and I've never read a single report that has painted it as a pain-free and lovely experience. Using your logic, you'll be forcing even those women who did not want their children and aborted them legally to either conceal their emotional pain or be charged with a crime. See how sticky this is?

My gut feeling about this case is that Scott Peterson's head will roll. I'm sure the defense is going to attempt to move the trial elsewhere in an attempt to get an untainted jury, but without moving the trial to Timbuktu, there really isn't any way to find a solid group of folks who haven't seen or read at least a little something about the case. With the evidence in hand now, there may already be enough for one murder conviction, and if the fetal homicide charge sticks (as I personally believe it will), Mr. Peterson will be languishing on Death Row for quite some time. And if he's found guilty, good riddance.

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BruinDan, "Number Three," PBOM

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UKgirl
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quote:
Originally posted by BruinDan:
If you are going to use emotional pain as a basis for fetal murder, you're opening up a world of trouble for women who study their options carefully and decide that abortion is the best option for them at that time. Sometimes legal abortion results in emotional pain or feelings of loss, and I've never read a single report that has painted it as a pain-free and lovely experience. Using your logic, you'll be forcing even those women who did not want their children and aborted them legally to either conceal their emotional pain or be charged with a crime. See how sticky this is?

quote:
Originally posted by UKgirl:
to me it makes sense that if a someone causes a woman to miscarry against her will in a violent attack that should carry a higher penalty than if she had not miscarried (although I'm not sure about calling it murder)... As I said before, to me causing a miscarriage that the woman does not want should be a crime because of the additional suffering caused to the woman, she did not experience that (as far as I know)

I think I really did make it clear that I was talking about a miscarriage inflicted on a woman against her will. I was saying that to me this feels like it should be an issue about a crime against the mother (which actually fits very well with your idea that this sort of thing ought to be mahem rather than murder). Thus if a woman suffered because of an abortion she had chosen to have, it would be her choice, and that woman should not be prosecuted, just as people that self-harmed or attempted suicide (which in many countries is no longer an crime) would be.


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BruinDan
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Actually, I read you loud and clear the first time around, thanks. Let me see if I can re-explain it a little bit better on my end.

I can see how it would be advantageous to have some sort of law which would allow "wanted" fetuses to be protected while "unwanted" ones are not, but a law based purely on that basis could not stand. (The Therapeutic Abortion Act does not rely solely on that basis, and has so far been deemed Constitutional) The same goes for crime against a woman in general. Adding provisions that would allow for enhanced penalties based upon who the victims are can be extremely thorny, as they tend to come damned close to violating the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" clause. Hate crimes, where a criminal is motivated by a hatred towards all members of a particular race, creed, or gender are close enough...and I'm still not convinced they're Constitutionally allowable since they result in the construction of "protected classes" of people who are covered under the law, while other groups are not. It's dicey indeed.

So it isn't that what you've said isn't a good idea, it's just that it cannot stand on its own. Using emotion as a basis like you did on your first go-around, you'll run into granting a law "overbroad" status, which will result in its being struck down. Using a law which gives specific protection to a woman runs into equal protection trouble, and tends to result in its being struck down as well.

There are so many overarching issues with abortion that it's even easy for people who are on the same page to be confused. I think you and I are in that category right now. I'd say we're actually in agreement here, as we both feel there should be protection of a fetus balanced with freedom of the mother. It's probably just a question of semantics.

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BruinDan, "Number Three," PBOM

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UKgirl
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quote:
Originally posted by BruinDan:
Actually, I read you loud and clear the first time around, thanks.... I'd say we're actually in agreement here, as we both feel there should be protection of a fetus balanced with freedom of the mother.

No, actually, we are not in agreement, and I've made that very clear. Whilst you, as you say, are wanting to balance the "protection of a fetus balanced with freedom of the mother" (a perfectly sound point of view, just not mine), I am wanting to balance the rights of the woman with the rights of the woman. Her right to continue a pregnancy if she wants to, be protected in doing so, and for there to be punishment for anyone who deprives her of that right, with her right to end a pregnancy if she wants to. for me it has nothing to do with the rights of the foetus. Partly becuase, to me, the foetus is not a full life, and does not have rights. That might be an extreme point of view, but its the one I hold.


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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by UKgirl:
That might be an extreme point of view, but its the one I hold.

Your last line speaks volumes, my dear. Because while it may be a view you hold, it is not the view of the United States of America, and it is not the view of the State of California. Therefore, it is not a view that holds any bearing whatsoever in the Laci Peterson case, and it plays absolutely no role in debating this case. Why not discuss this view in the main abortion thread where it would be a better fit?

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BruinDan, "Number Three," PBOM

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Dzuunmod
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quote:
Originally posted by BruinDan:
Your last line speaks volumes, my dear. Because while it may be a view you hold, it is not the view of the United States of America, and it is not the view of the State of California. Therefore, it is not a view that holds any bearing whatsoever in the Laci Peterson case, and it plays absolutely no role in debating this case. Why not discuss this view in the main abortion thread where it would be a better fit?

So then, Dan, people who have no role in the decision-making process have no place commenting on this case? What's the point of politically-geared message boards, then?

I'm not sure I want any part of your little kingdom.

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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by Dzuunmod:
I'm not sure I want any part of your little kingdom.


Hey, it's more a fiefdom than a kingdom, you know that!

But here we've got a thread which talks about a specific case and how it can affect (or is affected by) abortion legislation.

Over here however, we've got a place where we discuss ideas, concepts, beliefs, notions, and things of that nature with respect to the great abortion debate.

Just directin' traffic, ol' buddy!

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BruinDan, "Number Three," PBOM

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UKgirl
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quote:
Originally posted by wobblyheadedjane:
Should it be charged as a murder whether the fetus can live outside the mother's body or not?

I took this to mean we could discuss the ethics of it. It wasn't asked "could" or "will", but "should". To me, thats eithics.


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wobblyheadedjane
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Sorry I haven't been around lately- moving house makes things crazy.

In terms of the question UKGirl quoted, I feel it was taken slightly out of context, because I was referring to the California law that already exists and considers the death of a fetus a homicide whether it is viable or not. So it is a question of 'should', rather than could or will, becuase there are laws like this in place. I didn't intend the question to be applicable to the abortion debate in general, because the law states that it's unlawful except in cases of medical intervention (like abortion). The purpose of opening the discussion on Laci Peterson was to talk about the legal issues of the case, and it's possible effects on abortion legislation, rather than the ethics of abortion (which, as BruinDan pointed out, is being more than adequately covered in the prolife/prochoice thread).

I just felt I should clarify my position a little. I now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion.

[This message has been edited by wobblyheadedjane (edited 04-29-2003).]


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