However, in other states, while injury to a pregnant woman may be a crime, the killing of unborn children is not considered a separate offense. The tragedy of such a schizophrenic policy has become painfully obvious in North Carolina. There, Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, was viciously assaulted and killed while pregnant. Since there are no laws in North Carolina which equate the killing of a fetus to murder, authorities have brought no charges with regard to the death of Lauterbach’s unborn child.
In order to win full legal protection for the unborn, we need broad consensus. Such consensus already exists with regard to fetal homicide laws. The laws have been passed in three dozen states—and not one has been successfully challenged in court. In this context, fetal homicide laws could open the door to other laws that would provide protection to unborn children.
As Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, has stated, “It seems (abortion advocates’) greatest fear is not of what the (fetal homicide) bill actually does legally, but of how it might encourage people to think about the unborn child.”
Conner Peterson, Laci Peterson’s unborn son, became a person in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the American people through the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. No matter how abortion advocates might try to re-frame the debate, Conner passed through the prism of public consciousness to become more than just a “blob of tissue.” He had a name—therefore, he had existed, and his young life had been brought to a tragic end. And the law justly recognizes that fact.
This is how the fight against abortion must be waged: one step at a time. Incrementalism can try our patience, but it can also be quite effective. As the fight against slavery was fought in stages, so too the battle for civil rights protection for unborn children must be played out on one front at a time.
Once feticide has been outlawed throughout the U.S., pro-life advocates can move onto the next step. Each small victory wins more respect for unborn children, and hastens the day when they finally will be accorded equal rights under the law.