Local News

Victims' families rally in support of fetal homicide law

Posted May 6, 2009

— Family members of murder victims spoke out Wednesday in support of proposed legislation that would recognize unborn children as victims in murder cases.

Effie Steele's 21-year-old daughter, Ebony Robinson, was expected to give birth within weeks to her son, Elijah, when her boyfriend shot and killed her in 2007.

"We don’t know if Elijah would have been a president, a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher, because he was not given that chance," Steele said at a rally at the state Legislative Building.

"I felt betrayed his murderer was not charged with double homicide," she added. "He should have been punished with two life sentences, instead of just one."

North Carolina law does not consider the death of an unborn child in a murder case to be a separate homicide. If passed, House Bill 890 would allow the state to prosecute for murder in cases where the child dies as a result of an attack on the mother.

Thirty-five states nationwide recognize an unborn child as a second victim, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mark Milton, R-Catawba, said at a rally Wednesday. North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast that has not passed such legislation.

Similar versions of the bill have failed to make it past legislative committees because of worries about unintended consequences and questions stemming from a change in the law.

Family members said they are upset with House leaders who, they claim, have never allowed the bill to be heard.

"It's not a pro-choice or pro-life or a partisan bill. There is support from both Republicans and Democrats," said Jeff Gerber, a political activist and founder of the nonpartisan coalition Justice for All.

House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said opposition to the bill is based on the state's Injuries Against Pregnant Women law that upgrades a charge if it involves pregnant victims.

Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, chairwoman of a House judiciary committee, said that, with the backing of lawyers groups and domestic violence groups in the state, creating a second and separate offense for unborn victims would put the additional burden on attorneys and families to hold a second trial and provide proof of a second offense.

Families of victims at Wednesday's rally, however, said they have yet to see complete justice.

"It’s murder of a separate human being and should be protected by the same laws as the mother," Steele said. "There are more laws in North Carolina to protect dogs and chickens on the books."

Kevin Blaine, whose pregnant daughter, Jenna Nielsen, was stabbed to death behind a Raleigh convenience store in 2007, said he's been fighting for such legislation for two years.

"How can North Carolina be the only state in the South to not have this law?" he asked. "Are we that far behind? I'm appalled."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • jzhenderson May 7, 2009

    Again I say...murder is murder. You can justify that if a baby can't survive outside the womb then it's not murder, but that's just justifying a crime to make yourself feel better. How many babies have you aborted? All you prochoicers...I would like to know how many you have actually aborted. Did it make you feel great? Like you had just thrown your "problem" away? A lot of people talk real big about this issue...but read what they do to these babies!! It's awful. Aren't you glad your mother chose life? Murder is a crime no matter how you define it and someday all truth will come into light!

  • adw2 May 6, 2009

    Here should be charged with double murder. Life begins at conception. Never mind the fact that she was due in just a few weeks.What ever happened to the ten commandment that says "Thought Shalt Not Kill"?

  • sssh.. whisper May 6, 2009

    Pass the bill NC- give the jurors another reason to punish these killers with the death penalty- let them know it's time for change- it's time our government protects our unborn children

  • sunshine1224 May 6, 2009

    he should have been charged with both murders...he took 2 lives for nothing. her baby was still a person too.

  • manda-panda27537 May 6, 2009

    I am PRO CHOICE! There needs to be limits on what is double murder. If the mother is in her third trimester where most babies can survive if born, then murder should be the charge. Abortion is a separate issue and should be left out of this. Abortion is a womans right on what to do with her body,before the "baby" becomes a fetus and viable outside of her body. Adoption is hard in this country, too many rules and regulations. Less red-tape to go out of country.

  • Timbo May 6, 2009

    Unless the fetus is viable on its own, then it isn't murder. Sorry.

  • ehutchin May 6, 2009

    "The only person who should have say in what happens to a fetus is the mother of said fetus. My two cents." - jprime

    jprime: A fetus is a living human being. To say that when a living human being is killed by it's mother it is not murder, but when it is killed by another person it is murder is totally ridiculous

    We need to stop changing the rules around to make us feel better about ourselves!

  • jprime May 6, 2009

    I am pro-choice, and that is the keyword here; CHOICE.

    If a woman chooses to have an abortion, it is her choice that she makes. No one chooses to be murdered. A murdered unborn child by a 3rd party is a victim of murder - REGARDLESS of the mother's intent. If she was on the way to an appointment at the clinic and gets murdered, its a double murder.

    The only person who should have say in what happens to a fetus is the mother of said fetus. My two cents.

  • ehutchin May 6, 2009

    "curious how many 'pro lifers' out there go on down to the local abortion clinic offering warm, loving homes to the babies about to be aborted? If you're not going to take care of the child, what business is it of yours whether it lives or dies? Pro life? Its time to put up or shut up." - local know it all

    Local know it all - There are PLENTY of people that would LOVE to have those babies who are aborted!!!!!!! Many people can't have babies. Do you realize how difficult it is for people to adopt a baby in this country? Because of abortion there just aren't that many babies. Why can't those mothers choose to give their babies life? If they don't want their babies, then why can't they give them to couples who desperately want a baby?

  • George Costanza May 6, 2009

    Abortion got into this because if the state views an unborn child as having the right to live ( ie. a victim of murder) than abortion IS murder.