There are at least 30 states “that recognize the unlawful killing of an unborn child as homicide in at least some circumstances.” The laws that forbid such killing have come to be known as “Fetal Homicide Laws.” There is a situation brewing now in Lufkin, Texas that might call some of these laws into question from a constitutional perspective.
A 19-year-old young man in Lufkin, Texas was just sentenced to life in prison for ending his girlfriend’s pregnancy (source). The man was accused of stepping on his girlfriend’s stomach and causing her to miscarry. The hitch here is that he did this deed with the apparent consent of his girlfriend who wanted to end the pregnancy (source). Could he not argue on appeal that his girlfriend has the constitutional right to choose to end her pregnancy (à la Roe v. Wade), and he was just helping to carry out her wishes?
The case brings into sharp relief an inconsistency in our laws—an inconsistency that illustrates the immorality of abortion. John Piper has commented to this effect on the fetal homicide law in Minnesota:
“There is a fetal homicide law in Minnesota. According to the Minneapolis Tribune it ‘MAKES IT MURDER TO KILL AN EMBRYO OR FETUS INTENTIONALLY, EXCEPT IN CASES OF ABORTION.’ Now what makes the difference here? Why is it murder to take the life of an embryo in one case and not murder in the case of abortion? Now watch this carefully, because it reveals the stunning implications of the pro-choice position. The difference lies in the choice of the mother. If the mother chooses that her fetus live, it is murder to kill it. If she chooses for her fetus not to live, it is not murder to kill it. In other words in our laws we have now made room for some killing to be justified not on the basis of the crimes of the one killed, but solely on the basis of another person’s will or choice. If I choose for the embryo to be dead, it is legal to kill it. If I choose for the embryo to live, it is illegal to kill it. The effective criterion of what is legal or illegal, in this ultimate issue of life and death, is simply this: the will of the strong. There is a name for this. We call it anarchy. It is the essence of rebellion against objective truth and against God” (“Challenging Church and Culture with Truth”).
Pro-choice forces are aware of this tension, and that is why they are generally opposed to fetal homicide laws. Pro-choicers argue that these laws grant an unborn child legal status distinct from the pregnant mother, and this is a notion that they cannot reconcile with their own pro-abortion ideology. Therefore, they “prefer to criminalize an assault on a pregnant woman and recognize her as the only victim” (“Fetal Homicide Laws–What You Need To Know”).
It remains to be seen whether the 19-year-old Texas teen will have any success on appeal. But one thing is certain. The Texas state law is just and reflects the intrinsic value and personhood of the unborn. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with the Texas Fetal Homicide Law. I wish I could say the same for our ailing culture. Believe it or not, there are actually those who would want it to be legal for a father to stomp the life out of his unborn children. God help us.