Citizens for Community Values of Indiana Political Action Committee

New Indiana Legislative Battle --- Marion County prosecutor wants to expand fetal homicide law

Pro-family leaders and friends,

Below my note is a new story we should take really note of.

Indianapolis Prosecutor Carl Brizzi (and Senator Jim Buck) wants to upgrade the feticide law we fought so hard for in 1997 and 98. It appears that this law cannot be used against the murder of the two 5 month old twins in the tragic Huntington Bank teller shooting this month.

As you recall, Senator Luke Kenely led the charge against this measure aggressively carrying the water for Planned Parenthood in efforts both years to kill Rep. Irene Hefley's (and later Rep. Jim Buck's) legislation prompted by the death of the 8 month old Elmore baby. I can still remember him going in and out of the committee hearing, and on and off the Senate floor, conferring with Dinah Farrington.

My hope is that since Senator Kenely is now on record as self-identifying as "pro-life" and a "defender of the family" during this campaign, that he might not revert back to his pro-choice history so soon after this election, and that we can hold the support of certain GOP senators like Gard, Lubbers, and Lawson. Regardless, we can all count on Planned Parenthood and legislators like Sue Errington and Vi Simpson to fight this proposal every single step of the way.

We may want to start talking up this proposal and the shame of not having the feticide law cover this recent tragedy in our newsletters and publications.

God Bless !

Micah Clark
AFA of Indiana

Marion County prosecutor wants to expand fetal homicide law

INDIANAPOLIS The man who shot a pregnant teller during a bank robbery last week could face as little as two years in prison for killing her unborn twins.

But a penalty stretching several decades to 100 years would apply for the robbery and the attempted murder of the mother -- an absurd gap, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said. Today, he is expected to announce a proposal that would expand Indiana's fetal homicide laws to include any unborn child.

The change would remove a condition that the fetus be viable, or have the ability to live outside the mother's womb.

"I don't see why we should be talking about viability," Brizzi said Tuesday. "If somebody takes the life of an unborn child, they should be charged with murder, period."

Katherin Shuffield, 30, was five months pregnant. That is about two months shy of the point Brizzi said Indiana courts would consider the babies' deaths eligible for a murder charge with a penalty of 45 to 65 years in prison.

Instead, the strongest charge available would be feticide, a Class C felony on the books for decades that carries two to eight years in prison. Both murder and feticide require proof the crime was committed knowingly.

Police still are searching for the gunman who robbed the Huntington Bank branch April 22 on Indianapolis' Far Eastside. He shot Shuffield in the abdomen; she is hospitalized, but her twins died more than two days later.

Brizzi said state Sen. James W. Merritt Jr. and Rep. Mike Murphy, both R-Indianapolis, agreed to sponsor his proposal during the 2009 legislative session.

Indiana is among 35 states with fetal homicide laws, but not among at least 18 that allow strong penalties for killing an unborn child at any stage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 2004, Congress passed a law treating fetuses as separate victims of dozens of types of federal crimes.

But the debate over abortion has sometimes made crafting such laws politically tricky, even if some state supreme courts have upheld them.

Abortion rights advocates have argued that giving fetuses separate legal status could jeopardize women's reproductive rights or put mothers at risk of prosecution for harmful behavior. At the same time, anti-abortion activists have held such laws up as a toehold in the fight to outlaw abortion.

Brizzi hopes to sidestep such passions and focus the debate on sufficient punishment for feticide.

Officials from the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project and Planned Parenthood of Indiana declined to comment Tuesday.

Henry Karlson, a professor of criminal law at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, said a change in law is a near-certainty after the Shuffield shooting.

He suggested an easier compromise: Boost feticide to a Class A felony, which he said would provide a serious penalty of 20 to 50 years without wading into a debate over whether a fetus is a human being. And require a sentence for feticide to run consecutive to any other conviction.

"It takes a very rare kind of evil mind to shoot a pregnant woman," Karlson said. "The problem is not as much legal as much as it is philosophical. You have to draft (a law) carefully, and it can be done."

It was first done in 1997, when the General Assembly passed the current fetal homicide law -- but not without speed bumps.

The bill was drawn up after the shooting of an Indianapolis couple, Melanie and Kevin Elmore, that killed Melanie's baby after more than eight months of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood called it an abortion bill, but it passed both chambers overwhelmingly.

Then-Gov. Frank O'Bannon, a Democrat, vetoed the bill over concerns it put abortion doctors at risk. Both chambers overrode the veto in 1998.

That law marked the line at viability. Its sponsor, Rep. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, now a state senator, said it is time to expand it, in part because advances in medicine have made the legal standard for viability outdated.

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