House Passes Unborn Victims Act
Special Report - March 25, 2011
After more than two hours of intense debate and multiple amendments proposed on the floor, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed HB 215Unborn Victims of Violence Act/Ethen’s Law. The bill seeks to provide legal recognition and protection for unborn victims affected by crimes perpetrated against the mother, allowing prosecutors to pursue additional charges on behalf of the unborn child.
As the bill was brought before the House, bill sponsors Reps. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth), Mark Hilton (R-Catawba), Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell), and Fred Steen (R-Rowan) each voiced their support for the bill. In their introductory remarks, the bill sponsors highlighted the grave need for North Carolina to pass this law and join the 35 other states that already protect their unborn citizens.
The bill sponsors also urged members to vote against any amendment that would weaken the bill. Four amendments were offered, but only one a technical change was accepted. The following proposed amendments were defeated:
- An amendment filed by Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Wake), which would have required that the perpetrator of the crime have knowledge that the woman is pregnant. The amendment failed 66-46.
- An amendment filed by Rep. Phillip Haire (D-Jackson) that would have added qualifying language to take the unborn child’s age into account when prosecuting crimes. The amendment failed 68-42.
- An amendment filed by Rep. Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland) that would have lessened the maximum penalty for murder of an unborn child to life in prison, instead of life in prison without parole. The amendment failed 72-34.
Opponents of the bill argued that the bill was overly stringent and additionally, claimed that it diminished the importance of the adult victim, the mother. Supporters pointed out, however, that the bill was crafted only to mirror the federal law that is already in effect on federal lands in North Carolina, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and military bases. One representative pointed out that the law may actually help reduce domestic violence, as perpetrators would know that they may be charged for two crimes rather than just one.
Opponents also took issue with the fact that the bill recognizes, for the first time in North Carolina law, that the life of the child is protected from the point of conception. A key supporter of the bill, House Majority Leader “Skip” Stam (R-Wake), did not contest that fact arguing, “If there’s two victims, there’s two victims.”
On second reading, the bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 77-35. An objection to the bill’s third and final reading was made, but was later withdrawn, allowing the bill to pass third reading with a final vote of 74-35.
The measure will now to the Senate for consideration.
Unborn Victims Bill Goes to House - March 24, 2011
Unborn Victims Bill Gets First Hearing - March 17, 2011
Unborn Victims Bill Introduced - March 4, 2011
Parents Call for Fetal Murder Law - May 8, 2009
Another Pregnant Soldier Dies in North Carolina - June 25, 2008
Maryland Fetal Homicide Act Brings First Conviction - April 3, 2008
Murder Shows Need for Fetal Homicide Law - January 28, 2008
Fetal Murder Laws Questioned Following Mother's Death - June 26, 2007
How to Achieve Justice for All in North Carolina - FNC - Winter 2011
Protecting the Unborn - FNC - Mar/Apr 2008
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