Murder of pregnant mom thrusts life issue into spotlight

The California deaths of Laci Peterson and her unborn son are sending shockwaves across America, as the issue of when human life begins has been reignited.

Laci’s husband Scott was arrested in April following the discovery of what prosecutors say is Laci’s body and that of their “biological child.”

Scott Peterson, who was booked on two counts of murder hours after his arrest in San Diego, was scheduled for an arraignment April 21. If charged and convicted of double homicide, he could face the death penalty.

Already, some pro-choice groups including the National Organization for Women are voicing their opposition to the double-murder charge, saying it could become part of the pro-life lobby’s arsenal.

“If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder,” Morris County NOW President Mavra Stark told the Daily Record of Parsippany, N.J.

“There’s something about this that bothers me a little bit,” Stark said. “Was it born, or was it unborn? If it was unborn, then I can’t see charging (Peterson) with a double-murder.”

“(The boy) was wanted and expected,” Stark added, “and (Laci) had a name for him, but if he wasn’t born, he wasn’t born. It sets a kind of precedent.”

But pro-life groups are defending the two murder charges.

“Obviously, (the child) was wanted by the mother,” said Marie Tasy of New Jersey Right To Life. “Clearly, groups like NOW are doing a great injustice to women by opposing these laws. It just shows you how extreme, and to what lengths, these groups will go to protect the right to abortion.”

More than two dozen states have fetal homicide laws on the books, but they vary widely. According to Court TV, “In some states, such as Missouri and Minnesota, a fetus is considered a living thing at conception. In others, like Georgia and Michigan, a fetus is only protected after ‘quickening’ – when movement is first felt in the womb – occurs. In Pennsylvania, where a woman was convicted (in March) of murder for causing a romantic rival to miscarry her 15-week-old fetus, the 1999 law applies to any stage of pregnancy.”

The lack of a singular standard in the law has weighed heavily on the minds of many.

In a letter to the editor of the Modesto Bee published March 29, weeks before Laci’s body was discovered, Fr. Joseph Illo of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto wrote: “California law defines a fetus as human after eight weeks’ gestation if you kill his or her mother. If the mother kills the fetus, then California law changes its mind to say, in that case, the fetus is no longer human. Is a human fetus human or not? If the Laci Peterson case is a ‘double’ homicide, then any abortion after eight weeks in this state is a ‘single’ homicide. That is why I’ve been praying at abortion clinics these last 10 years – that we will come back to our senses.”