Bill on fetal homicides goes to governor
Prosecutors could charge someone with murder, manslaughter or battery for intentionally harming a fetus under a bill that won House approval Wednesday and went to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
The proposed “Alexa’s Law,” named for the fetus of a 14-year-old Wichita girl murdered last year, had strong backing from abortion opponents. But an abortion-rights leader called it “a step backwards” in protecting women.
The House vote was 97-27 and came three weeks after the Senate approved the measure. Sebelius is a strong abortion-rights supporter but hasn’t declared whether she will sign or veto the bill.
“As bills move through the legislative process, they sometimes change along the way, and we’ll need to take a careful look before weighing in,” said spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran.
The goal of supporters is that when a pregnant woman is attacked, prosecutors would be allowed to charge her assailant with a crime against her and a separate crime against the baby she is carrying. State law makes injuring a pregnant woman a felony, but it doesn’t treat the fetus as a second victim.
The bill says the definition of “person” for nine crimes includes an “unborn child” at any stage of development in the womb. Those crimes are capital, first-degree and second-degree murder; vehicular homicide; voluntary and involuntary manslaughter; battery and aggravated battery; and manslaughter while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Common sense returns to our laws pertaining to women and unborn children who are the victims of crime,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group. “Women are just as protected in the law as they were yesterday. It’s just now the second victim is also protected.”
Abortion-rights advocates disagree that mothers-to-be will have the same legal protections because the bill repeals the laws against injury to a pregnant woman.
“It only gives protection for the fetus. There is absolutely no protection for the woman,” said Julie Burkhart, a lobbyist for ProKanDo, an abortion-rights group.
Abortion-rights advocates also see the bill as a step toward banning abortions and contend that is why it is important to anti-abortion groups like Kansans for Life. Their fears intensified, Burkhart said, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week upholding a federal ban on a late-term procedure that critics call “partial-birth” abortion.
Culp noted that the measure specifically exempts abortion from its provisions, as well as any act by the mother-to-be harming her fetus.
Thirty-five states have some law making it a crime to kill or harm a fetus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including Alabama, California, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio. However, laws vary state-to-state, and not all apply from conception, as the Kansas bill would.
The bill was inspired by the case of Chelsea Ann Brooks, a 14-year-old killed less than three weeks before she was to give birth.
Her body was found in a shallow grave in Butler County in June, and three suspects were accused of involvement in her strangling. One, a juvenile, pleaded guilty to a capital murder charge, while two adults await trial. Authorities say one of the adults paid $500 to have the girl murdered to avoid being prosecuted for rape.
“It’s about justice,” said Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, the measure’s primary sponsor. “Currently, in Kansas, there is no law that provides for justice for crimes committed against the unborn human being.”
Of the 78 Republicans, 72 voted “yes” and six voted “no.”
Of the 47 Democrats, 25 voted “yes,” 21 voted “no” and one did not vote.
REPUBLICANS VOTING YES
Clay Aurand, Courtland. Virginia Beamer, Oakley. Bob Bethell, Alden.
Elaine Bowers, Concordia. Anthony Brown, Eudora. Steve Brunk, Wichita.
Mike Burgess, Topeka. Richard Carlson, St. Marys. Pat Colloton, Leawood. Jeff Colyer, Overland Park.
Barbara Craft, Junction City. David Crum, Augusta. Don Dahl, Hillsboro.
Owen Donohoe, Shawnee. John Faber, Brewster. Rocky Fund, Hoyt.
Pat George, Dodge City. Mario Goico, Wichita. Lana Gordon, Topeka.
John Grange, El Dorado. Gary Hayzlett, Lakin. Don Hill, Emporia. Benjamin Hodge, Overland Park. Carl Dean Holmes, Liberal. Mitch Holmes, St. John. Deena Horst, Salina. Steve Huebert, Valley Center. Joe Humerickhouse, Osage City. Dan Johnson, Hays. Kasha Kelley, Arkansas City. Richard Kelsey, Goddard. Mike Kiegerl, Olathe. Jeff King, Independence. Lance Kinzer, Olathe. Forrest Knox, Fredonia. Brenda Landwehr, Wichita. Bill Light, Rolla. Peggy Mast, Emporia.
Ty Masterson, Andover. Joe McLeland, Wichita. Ray Merrick, Stilwell. Ronnie Metsker, Overland Park. Jim Morrison, Colby. Judy Morrison, Shawnee. Tom Moxley, Council Grove. Don Myers, Derby. Melvin Neufeld, Ingalls. Robert Olson, Olathe. Mike O’Neal, Hutchinson. Bill Otto, LeRoy. Tim Owens, Overland Park. Joe Patton, Topeka.
Virgil Peck, Tyro. JoAnn Pottorff, Wichita. Larry Powell, Kalvesta.
Ted Powers, Mulvane. Richard Proehl, Parsons. Marc Rhoades, Newton. Don Schroeder, Inman. Sharon Schwartz, Washington. Clark Shultz, Lindsborg.
Arlen Siegfreid, Olathe. Sheryl Spalding, Overland Park. Vern Swanson, Clay Center. Dale Swenson, Wichita.
Lee Tafanelli, Ozawkie. Jene Vickrey, Louisburg. Jason Watkins, Wichita.
Jeff Whitham, Garden City. Kenny Wilk, Lansing. William Wolf, Great Bend. Kevin Yoder, Overland Park.
REPUBLICANS VOTING NO
Terrie Huntington, Mission Hills. Charles Roth, Salina. Stephanie Sharp, Lenexa. Tom Sloan, Lawrence.
Kay Wolf, Prairie Village. Ron Worley, Lenexa.
DEMOCRATS VOTING YES
Tom Burroughs, Kansas City. Nile Dillmore, Wichita. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Wichita. Bill Feuerborn, Garnett. Doug Gatewood, Columbus. Raj Goyle, Wichita. Bob Grant, Cherokee. Tom Hawk, Manhattan. Jerry Henry, Cummings. Margaret Long, Kansas City. Steve Lukert, Sabetha. Dennis McKinney, Greensburg. Melody Miller, Wichita. Shirley Palmer, Fort Scott. Jan Pauls, Hutchinson. Mike Peterson, Kansas City. Eber Phelps, Hays. Gene Rardin, Overland Park. L. Candy Ruff, Leavenworth. Josh Svaty, Ellsworth. Mark Treaster, Pretty Prairie. Ed Trimmer, Winfield. Jim Ward, Wichita. Vince Wetta, Wellington. Jerry Williams, Chanute.
DEMOCRATS VOTING NO
Barbara Ballard, Lawrence. Sydney Carlin, Manhattan. Marti Crow, Leavenworth. Paul Davis, Lawrence. Geraldine Flaharty, Wichita. Vaughn Flora, Topeka. Stan Frownfelter, Kansas City. Broderick Henderson, Kansas City. Tom Holland, Baldwin City. Annie Kuether, Topeka. Harold Lane, Topeka. Judy Loganbill, Wichita. Ann Mah, Topeka. Terry McLachlan, Wichita. Julie Menghini, Pittsburg. Cindy Neighbor, Shawnee. Louis Ruiz, Kansas City. Tom Sawyer, Wichita. Sue Storm, Overland Park. Annie Tietze, Topeka. Valdenia Winn, Kansas City.
DEMOCRATS NOT VOTING
Delia Garcia, Wichita.