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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Crimes Involving Pregnant Women

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Author Topic: Crimes Involving Pregnant Women
Tashi
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I don't have any specific cases I'm referencing or referring to here, but I was wondering how you would suggest dealing with problems where a pregnant woman is killed or harmed and subsequently, the fetus she is carrying is killed as well. I believe I've heard about cases like this being tried as double homicides, or if the woman is still alive, the prosecution trying to get a homicide charge for the fetus killed. Does trying to have the murderer or attacker tried for both harmed beings undermine the cause of pro-choice advocates? Because the fetus is being established as a victim as well? What if the fetus was very much wanted and desired by the woman and her partner? Would that change anything, that they had lost the potential child they were planning on having? I'm curious to get the opinions and thoughts of people that know the subject better, and perhaps actually know of a real case where these issues were brought up.

Thanks.

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pyro_angel
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We recently had a law like this try to pass in Canada. I found this link which describes some of the things to think about around this issue.
Fetal Homicide Law
Hope this helps a bit!

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Courtenay

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Heather
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This is such a huge topic, but I do think that there are ways to approach this that are sound but are still pro-choice.

Mostly, I'd say it boils down to not presenting/placing a fetus and someone who is not only already born, but is sustaining that maybe-life, as equal. You can value the life-that-isn't-yet as the way it's valuable to the person whose body and heart it is part of while not DEvaluing the mother or creating laws and policies which would do so.

This has been something being batted around for a long time now, and it's super-tricky because of the many ways laws and policies around this can be applied. As it stands now in the US, a crime committed against a pregnant woman is basically considered as having more gravity most of the time, rather than as a crime against two separate people.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Tashi
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Pyro_angel - Thanks for the link, it was really interesting!

So then the best path in cases of violence against pregnant women would be to perhaps seek out a harsher punishment for the offender, but not bring a separate charge against them for the death of the fetus?

Also, what about when a fetus is past the point of viability? (~22 weeks, if I recall correctly) Would that still be getting into laws that could be used against pregnant women/helping anti-abortion movements?

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Heather
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Tashi: this is really a matter of opinion, so don't feel like I -- or anyone else -- can say what the "best path" here is.

Viability isn't actually legally defined clearly anywhere I know of, and can't be so easily by one number of weeks, because whether or not a fetus is or isn't viable outside of the whom is very individual and won't be the same for all based on the weeks of development.

But yes, I'd absolutely say that no matter what number of weeks we're talking about, any legal policy that treats a being living inside someone else's body, and who has not been born yet, as the same as someone who is not reliant on another person's body in any way and who has been born, is frought with potential problems.

For instance, to just give you one idea, one of the biggest issues around these kinds of laws that come up is with miscarriage, which is often outside a woman's control. And yet, if and when there are legal policies that give a fetus the same rights as a person who was born, it could be easy for a woman who miscarries to be charged with homicide or manslaughter.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Tashi
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True. I suppose I meant more that it was at the very least a better path that attempting to assign full rights to an unborn fetus, though like you point out, the topic in general is a tricky one.
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