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Vigil Raises Calls For N.C. Fetal Homicide Law

Posted July 9, 2007
Updated July 10, 2007

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— During a candlelight vigil for an unborn baby that died last month when his mother was murdered, scores of people called Monday for a state law to make killing a pregnant woman a double murder.

"An unborn child should be recognized if the mother's killed," said Kevin Blaine, whose daughter, Jenna Nielsen, was stabbed to death June 14.

"Right now they recognize my daughter's murder. But they don't recognize my unborn grandson's murder or as a person, for that matter," said Blaine.

Nielsen, 22, of Fuquay-Varina, was eight-months pregnant when she was killed as she refilled USA Today newspaper boxes. Her body was found behind a Lake Wheeler Road convenience store.

Nielsen is the third pregnant woman killed in the Triangle in just over two years. Michelle Young was found beaten to death in her Wake County home in November. Janet Abaroa was found stabbed to death in her Durham home in April 2005.

Nielson's family and supporters at the vigil are "trying to get the state to recognize the fetus as a person. It's one of the only few states that doesn't, and we are here to help change that," said Nielsen's husband, Tim Nielsen.

North Carolina is one of 14 states that doesn't recognize the death of a fetus as a separate crime, although state law does enhance the felony charge against an assailant if a crime against a pregnant woman – including domestic violence – leads to a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Nancy Burdette was so touched by Nielsen's case that she started an online petition to change the state law and make killing a pregnant woman a case of double murder. More than 2,000 people have already put their names behind the effort.

"It has really just taken off and taken on a life of its own," Burdette said. "If you have two victims, you have two crimes."

Past attempts to change the law have failed, partly because recognizing unborn life that way is likely to become entangled in the abortion debate.

"Don't cloud the issue with abortion," Blaine said.

"Abortion is the mother's decision. I want this for when this is not the mother's decision," Burdette said.

Various women's advocates and domestic violence groups said they also worry about unintended consequences of a change in the law. They said a pregnant woman could be held responsible if she didn't  protect her fetus from an abuser.

House Bill 263, which would make the death of a fetus a separate crime, didn't make a deadline to be heard by a legislative committee this session, said state Rep. Debra Ross, D-Wake.

State Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, urged people at the vigil to pressure lawmakers to act on the bill.

"The only way we're going to get something like this out of committee is grassroots effort, telephone calls, e-mails to your legislators in your district," said Hunt.

If all parties get together, a study could emerge for the next legislative session, Ross said.


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  • Right4Me Jul 11, 2007

    From beginning to end this will be about abortion. God bless the families that will get tied up in the middle of this. Prayer for the politicians who will try to decide what is right for the majority without alienating the minority. Prayer that the person who killed that innocent child and his mother will be brought to justice and somewhere in the midst will come to realize and accept responsibility for the pain and heartache he has caused. Prayer for the husband, children and family of those taken, who are left wondering why? Lord please comfort them and keep them close to you.

  • WXYZ Jul 11, 2007

    Another question: If the MOTHER dies as a result of the elective abortion, can the Abortionist be charged with double, first degree murder?

  • WXYZ Jul 11, 2007

    Definition of Elective Abortion: The deliberate, premeditated, planned and carefully performed KILLING of the PRODUCT of CONCEPTION and the REMOVAL and DISPOSAL of the MATERIAL collected. So, if an unborn child (aka fetus) is condemned to death by it mother, and that mother hires someone to kill the UNWANTED, unborn child---that is legal. However, if the the mother decides that she WANTS the unborn child, and that unborn child is killed, removed from the womb and disposed of--that is illegal. So, is the deciding factor is whether or not the MOTHER, WANTS the child to be born or not? Also, does the MOTHER have more authority than the legislature, judges or juries regarding the life or death of an unborn child?

  • nchockeyguy76 Jul 11, 2007

    I would like to see this law passed but all this talk of abortion isn't taking into account why some women have abortions. Some women have abortions to save their lives. Some because they were raped by strangers or even family members. I believe in those cases abortion is needed. Now using it as a method of birth control, I don't agree with.
    But back to this issue at hand. I agree 100% that this law is needed in our state. It is time that our state joins others in having a law like this to punish people who kill a pregnant mother and her baby.

  • atozca Jul 11, 2007

    Iron Man,

    Why are you asking? Based on your previous post, I hope you aren't accussing me of deciding my own moral standards. If so, you need to reread what I wrote. I base my moral standards on the Word i.e. the Holy Bible. And yes, I'm forgiven.

    Have a great day!

  • RoseBud Jul 10, 2007

    we do need to change this law, Please sign the petition if you haven't: You can go to: www.justice4jenna.org or to:


  • ECITSUJ Jul 10, 2007

    I feel that what happened to Jenna and Ethen was so sad..I believe that North Carolina as a state needs to recognize that this was a human being, just like his Mom...Just because he was not outside of his Mom's womb does not make him any less a human being..We as a state need to be the voice for Ethen as well as any baby that is murdered whether he is in the womb or not...Take the right stand North Carolina! Make us all proud that we live in a state that hears the voice of the Ethens, that are crying out for JUSTICE...

  • Iron Man Jul 10, 2007


    How do you define abortion?

  • Iron Man Jul 10, 2007

    We have become so vain that the majority of the citizens beleave that individuals decide their own moral standards, subsequently, we will build a society that at some point will self destruct. Most likely with in the next 50 years.

  • atozca Jul 10, 2007

    http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?061407& ;1

    You can also go to: Justice4Jenna.Org and there is a direct link

    there as well.