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'Offenses Against Unborn Children's Act' Progressing in Senate

April 9, 2013 - 6:00pm

State lawmakers are debating SB 876 in earnest now, legislation that would create a separate criminal offense for anyone who hurts a pregnant woman and the unborn child is injured or killed.

The "Offenses Against Unborn Children's Act" has passed theHealth Policy and Criminal Justice committees butstill faces votes along two more stops before it can go to the Senate floor.

Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, calls her bill a common sense idea to address violent acts against pregnant women who then lose the child. Itwould include any stage of pregnancy.

But Sen. Chris Smith, an attorney, questions a new law that would lead to extra charges against someone who had no idea a woman was pregnant.

This is murky water that were going into in Americas jurisprudence," said Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, "where we possibly could be charging a person with a crime that they could have no idea or reason or knowledge of and its kind of a penalty enhancement.

Stargel responded that a person can choose not to commit a violent act and then would not risk getting charged with an additional crime for hurting an unborn child.

She said the bill would not apply to a woman who hurts herself, or to doctors performing medical procedures, including abortions.

She said, The bottom line is, it couldve been prevented and I think when anyone is taking a step, whether theyre going to drive drunk or do a violent act against somebody, they can choose not to do that violent act and therefore not have the risk of being charged with this crime of killing the baby as well.

I think its very narrow," Stargel said, describing the proposed law. "Its just basically saying if a woman has had a violent action against her and she loses her unborn child, then its violence against two.

Dave Heller is a Tallahassee freelance reporter/videographer.

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