RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia Senate committee rejected a bill to allow prosecutors to charge someone who kills someone else’s fetus, either “while in the sudden heat of passion” or by accident, with manslaughter.
The legislation from state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham) would have made it a Class 5 felony, which carries up to a 10-year sentence in Virginia, for killing another person’s fetus under two new conditions.
These include during “an intentional act committed while in the sudden heat of passion upon reasonable provocation” or by accident “while engaged in conduct so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human.” Under current Virginia law, deliberately killing a fetus comes with a Class 2 felony charge.
“This is not an abortion bill,” Sen. Obenshain said Monday when presenting his measure to the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
Obenshain spoke about the experience of Taylor Shifflett, a Virginia woman who was six months pregnant when she was struck by a driver going 90 mph while trying to get away from police, according to reports.
Shifflett, who spoke in front of the panel Monday, suffered multiple injuries that required surgeries and was in a coma. Her fetus did not survive the crash, according to reports.
“What happened to my baby is going to happen again,” Shifflett told the committee.
State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) spoke about the high-profile case involving former NFL player Rae Carruth, who served 18 years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder after hiring a hitman to kill his pregnant girlfriend, 24-year-old Cherica Adams.
Sen. Petersen noted that Carruth’s case involved an “intentional act” to end Adams’ pregnancy — Adams died from her injuries, but their son, Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered via a C-section.
Petersen signaled uneasiness with treating cases like Shifflett’s, which he called “tragic,” as manslaughter when someone could be unaware of the fetus.
Obenshain’s bill, which narrowly made it out of the judiciary committee before being killed last year, failed on a party-line vote Monday, with nine Democrats voting against advancing it and six Republicans supporting the measure.