Two Republican lawmakers, state Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Larry Ahern, of Seminole, have sponsored an amendment to the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, a federal law that recognizes a child in utero as a legal victim.
“The legislation currently is that if a woman is part of an act of violence and her quick child (a fetus far enough along that it moves within the womb) were to die, then it would be a prosecutable crime against the child,” Stargel explained. “What we’re doing is changing that and saying that any unborn child, whether in the process of gestation or if a woman loses her unborn child, then it would be violence against two: the woman and also the child.”
Stargel said supporters of the bill hope to see it passed in 2014, joining 23 other states with fetal homicide laws.
In the last legislative session, Stargel said, the bill passed in the house but not the senate because it was filed it too late. Although the bill does include an exception for doctors legally performing abortions, she said it’s not an attempt to curb the medical procedure.
“This is not abortion legislation,” she said. “Everyone who is part of a process to have a legal abortion would not be prosecuted. It’s only if there’s a violent act that occurs against the woman. This doesn’t include accidental death, things like that. It is violence against women.”
Judy Wilson, chief executive officer of the Ocala Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Center, said she approves the measure, if its aim is to first and foremost protect pregnant women and their unborn children.
“If it’s just about the types of things that happen when you’re pregnant and get abused — and this bill seems to be about fetal injury and death — it’s a good bill,” Wilson said. “But you have to be careful in what’s added onto them.”