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Lawmakers Seek To Make Causing Death Of Unborn Child A Crime; Abortion Rights Group May Not Fight It

Sascha Cordner

A legislative effort is underway to make it a separate crime in Florida to cause the death or injury of an unborn child. the bill doesn’t differentiate based on intent or the child’s stage of development.

It’s currently a crime to cause or contribute to the death of what’s called an “unborn quick child,” —that is, a fetus that can live outside the womb. But legislation filed by Lakeland Senator Kelli Stargel and Seminole Representative Larry Ahern would expand the definition to include any pregnancy.

“Well, it doesn’t matter whether or not the offender knows, or quite honestly if the pregnant woman knows. You still have all the same prosecutorial decisions with the State Attorney for whether they want to prosecute. There have been some questions about what part of gestation. Like I said, the state attorney would have to look at the situation and decide if there was enough evidence to prosecute,” said Stargel.

Abortion rights groups have opposed such bills in the past, because they give separate legal protections to a fertilized egg. But, Planned Parenthood of Florida spokeswoman Kellie Dupree says the measure isn’t currently top-of-mind.

“It’s very early in session. So, we’re trying to prioritize our efforts to really make the best impact for women and families in Florida. So, right now, the bill isn’t prioritized, but of course, we still have concerns and we're going to keep an eye on it. But, at the moment, it’s not at the top of our list,” said Dupree.

This is the ninth time the bill has been filed in the Florida Legislature—the third consecutive time for Representative Ahern, who saw it pass the House last year. He says recent cases may mean the third time’s the charm.

“We have a case in point in the Tampa-Saint Petersburg area where the woman was shot and killed and they were trying to kill the baby—in essence, usually the boyfriend—but the baby survived. Now, he’s been charged with her murder, but not the attempted murder of that child. So, we have some flaws this law seeks to correct. I believe this session will be the most important session for this bill,” said Ahern.

There’s also a trial set for next week in Leon County in the case of a man accused of a murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend. She was 21-weeks pregnant.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.