Texas Court Upholds Unborn Death as Murder
Special Report - December 4, 2007
In an opinion handed down on November 21, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld a Texas law that recognizes an unborn child as a legally protected “individual.” In this case, Terence Lawrence was charged with capital murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend and her unborn baby, after she told Lawrence she was pregnant with his child. Capital murder is defined in the Texas Penal Code as intentionally or knowingly causing the death of “more than one person... during the same criminal transaction."
Lawrence challenged the constitutionality of the law arguing that the definition of “individual” in the Texas law was too vague. The court determined that the Penal Code’s definition of an “individual” as “a human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth,” was sufficiently specific and it responded in the opinion saying, “No ordinary person reading the statute would have any doubt as to whether it encompasses victims at all stages of gestation.”
Lawrence also attempted to prove that the Texas law violated the due process rights guaranteed him by the U.S. Constitution in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s pro-abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade. The Texas court soundly rejected this argument. In part, the court concluded the following:
“In particular, appellant argues that prosecuting him for intentionally or knowingly killing the embryo violated substantive due process because the embryo had not yet reached ‘viability’that is, the ability to survive outside the womb. Appellant focuses on viability because the Supreme Court has held that prohibitions on abortion before viability lack a "compelling state interest" and are thus unconstitutional.”
“The reasoning articulated in Roe and its progeny for affording substantive due process protection to the decision to have an abortion presupposes that the mother wants to have an abortion. Only then will a statute implicate a woman's liberty interest in exercising the choice to do so. It follows that the Roe framework-including the ‘compelling state interest’ test-has no application to a case that does not involve the pregnant woman's liberty interest in choosing to have an abortion.”
“The instant case implicates no such liberty interest. The State was prosecuting a third party who ended the life of the embryo by fatally shooting the mother. The ‘compelling state interest’ test, along with the accompanying ‘viability’ threshold, has no application to a statute that prohibits a third party from causing the death of the woman's unborn child against her will.”
In North Carolina, despite several recent highly publicized murders of pregnant women and their unborn children, as well as ongoing efforts to enact legislation that recognizes an unborn child as a separate person under the law, the North Carolina General Assembly has yet to adopt such a statute.
Copyright © 2007. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.