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Fetal homicide bill passes in state Senate

A bill that would punish people who harm a fetus at any stage of development goes back to the state House for a final vote.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In a 45-4 vote Thursday, the state Senate approved a proposed law that makes it a felony to kill or injure a fetus at any stage or development.

House Bill 215, "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," now goes back to the state House for a final vote.

The legislation, which makes clear that it doesn't apply to legal abortions, would find anyone who commits murder, manslaughter or assault against a pregnant woman guilty of the same crimes against the fetus, regardless of whether an attacker knows about the pregnancy.

State law does not recognize the death of a fetus or unborn child as a result of a violent crime as a homicide or separate crime.

If passed, the bill would replace an existing state law that makes injury to a woman that results in a miscarriage or stillbirth an aggravating factor.

That can increase the penalty for a felony.

The bill is also called "Ethen's Law," after the unborn son of Jenna Nielsen, who was eight months pregnant when she was stabbed to death outside a Raleigh convenience store in June 2007.

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