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Texas Church Shooting Victims Included Fetus

Texas Church Shooting Victims Included Fetus
Stuffed animals sit at the base of a cross at a makeshift memorial for victims near the scene of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Eric Gay/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 08 November 2017 08:44 AM

One unborn child was included in the count of victims in the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting, according to The New York Times. 

The fetus was inside the womb of Crystal Holcombe, who died with three of her five children in the attack. Texas, among at least 38 states, considers a fetus in utero as a possible crime victim separately from the mother, according to The Times.

In those states, harsher penalties apply in crimes against pregnant women and federal law also recognizes unborn fetus as separate victims in federal and military crimes, The Times reported.

Groups opposed to abortion have lobbied for fetal homicide laws in campaigns for "personhood," aiming for the public to consider any stage of development as a human being that requires legal protection, The Times reported.

The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 took five years to pass Congress, and gained momentum in the Laci Peterson killing, in which husband Scott Petersen was convicted of two murders: Laci and her unborn child.

"Prosecutors like to have this in their toolbox," said Jennifer Popik, director of federal legislation for National Right to Life.

Abortion rights supporters have at times been against fetal homicide laws, but their positions depend on the wording of the laws, The Times reported. NARAL Pro-Choice America supports laws that ramp up penalties for crimes against pregnant women, but it opposes personhood laws that designate the fetus as a separate legal entity.

Carol Sanger, a Columbia Law School professor, said that fetal homicide laws do not threaten Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court law that legalized abortion. Those laws are criminal statutes, while Roe v. Wade is about a constitutional right, The Times reported.

Sanger noted that at the World Trade Center memorial in New York, 10 pregnant women killed in the attacks include "and her unborn child" after their names. Sanger said that was part of an effort to make people more accustomed to thinking of prenatal life "as being like a born person," The Times reported.

Holcombe and the unborn fetus count as nine members of Holcombe's family that died in the shooting, including her mother-in-law, father-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a niece. Her husband was injured by shrapnel but survived, The Times reported.

"God will see us through. We'll all be together soon," said Joe Holcombe, father of John, Crystal Holcombe's husband, according to The Washington Post.

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One unborn child was included in the count of victims in the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting, according to The New York Times.
texas, church, shooting, victims, fetus
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 08:44 AM
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