The sheriff deputies who assessed the fatalities at the bloody crime scene at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, counted the death toll as 26, because one of the victims was a mother carrying an unborn child inside of her.
The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 recognizes unborn children as separate victims for federal and military crimes. Texas law also defines a human being to include “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth,” and recognizes an unborn baby as a potential crime victim.
“This has been a longstanding priority for us, and something we were instrumental in pushing,” said National Right to Life director Jennifer Popik according to The New York Times. “The principle here is that there’s two victims. For a family already invested in the child, for the grandparents, this is a loss.”
Abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America defends harsher penalties for perpetrators who commit crimes against pregnant women, however, the group strongly opposes crime-victim laws and “personhood” laws that give unborn babies separate legal status from the mother. These laws are an attempt to prevent women from getting abortions, according to NARAL.
“We need tougher laws on the books that increase criminal penalties for individuals who target pregnant women, and we stand with our allies in support of meaningful legislation to prevent future acts of gun violence,” said NARAL spokesperson Kaylie Long.
President Donald Trump’s administration has also defined life at conception. The Department of Health and Human Services “accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception,” according to a draft plan from the agency.
Even New York’s World Trade Center memorial includes the words “and her unborn child” after the names of the pregnant women who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Thirty eight states currently have fetal homicide laws.
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