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Judge Upholds Pennsylvania's Fetal Homicide Law in Fetal Murder Case

[January 28, 2003]

A judge on Friday upheld Pennsylvania's fetal homicide law in the case of a woman who is charged with assault of a pregnant woman that resulted in the death of the fetus, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/27). Corinne Wilcott was charged with "murder of an unborn child" and "aggravated assault of an unborn child," after Sheena Carson miscarried her 15-week-old fetus four days after Wilcott allegedly attacked Carson. Wilcott's attorney Tim Lucas previously argued that the state's 1999 Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act is unconstitutional because the state allows a woman to terminate her pregnancy through abortion in the first 24 weeks, but under the statute in question a person could be charged with murder for killing a fetus of any age (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 12/02/2002). Erie County, Pa., judge John Trucilla said that there was "no contradiction" or "double standard" between the fetal homicide and abortion laws because a woman can choose to have an abortion, but has no choice in an attack that results in the death of the fetus, the AP/Centre Daily Times reports. Trucilla also dismissed arguments that the fetal homicide law does not consider whether the fetus would survive outside of the womb. "The state must prove only that the implanted embryo or fetus in the mother's womb was living, that it once had a life and that it has life no longer," according to Trucilla (AP/Centre Daily Times, 1/26). Pennsylvania is one of 27 states that have fetal homicide laws, which have been widely promoted by abortion-rights opponents to bolster their arguments that fetuses should be recognized as living human beings. Last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the law could be used to prosecute cases of murder, voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Other states have upheld fetal homicide laws in similar cases (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 12/02/2002). Lucas said he would not appeal the ruling before Wilcott's trial next month (AP/Centre Daily Times, 1/26).

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Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, search the archives, and sign up for E-mail delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/repro. The Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2003 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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