Man who killed his baby in utero can be tried for murder

An appeal hearing in Great Britain will define whether a person who fatally injures a child “en ventre sa mere’ (in the womb of the mother) can be charged with murder or manslaughter.

The hearing follows a 1993 case where a trial judge acquitted a man accused of murdering his own child. The man stabbed his girlfriend who was 24026 weeks pregnant. The stabbing caused premature birth and the child died four months later as a result of injuries sustained by the attack.

This man is serving four years in prison for wounding the mother but was acquitted of all charges in relation to the death of the child.

In Great Britain the law allows abortion and states that it is not homicide to kill the child in the womb. Once the child is born alive he or she becomes a “person.” Any act which causes the death of a person is considered homicide.

Attorney General, Nicholas Lyell, Q.C., using the 1993 trial as a est case, is attempting to have similar incidents labeled as homicide. The appeal hearing is being watched closely and is expected to have wide implications.

John Keown, Author or “Abortion, Doctors and the Law” (Cambridge University Press) and Lecturer in Law and Ethics and Medicine at Cambridge University said, “Such a pronouncement would be relevant not only to cases involving assaults on pregnant women, but to abortions (especially later abortions) performed by medical practitioners which may result in the delivery of a living foetus.”

The Toronto Star for November 25 carried a brief report of a ruling in which a British judge redefined the homicide law, or rather put it back to where it was in the 18th century.

Lord Chief justice Peter Taylor held that someone who kills a fetus by attacking a pregnant mother can be tried for murder. He maintained, however, that his decision had no implications for doctors carrying out abortion.

“Murder or manslaughter can be committed where an unlawful injury is deliberately inflicted either to a child in utero or to a mother carrying a child in utero,” he said.

His Lordship took a step in the right direction, but he did not go far enough. Either the fetus deserves the protection of society as a human being, or it does not.

In the 18th century a woman convicted of a capital offense could be executed, but not if she was carrying a child: the law could take one life, but not two. The mother had been found guilty, but the child was innocent; it was a person requiring the protection of the state.

Taylor is trying to have it both ways–to say that the unborn baby should be protected from one type of assailant, but not from another, the abortionist. He has tied himself in legal knots.

In the case he was reviewing, a man’s deliberate stabbing of his girlfriend in a drunken row had serious consequences for the unborn person in her womb; the abortionist’s deliberate attack on an unborn person has equally serious consequences, with the exception that his attack is invariably fatal. Such an attack can hardly be regarded as lawful; to consider it as such is a strange perversion of the law.