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House OKs feticide bill, sends back to Senate

April 7, 2009

Legislation that would increase the penalty for fetal homicide has made it through the Indiana House of Representatives, and now must go back for approval in the Senate where it originated since some changes were made.

On Monday, the House voted 96-0 in support of Senate Bill 236, which would apply to fetuses at any stage of development and enhance the feticide penalty from the current two- to six-year term, to a six- to 20-year penalty. It would also allow an additional six to 20 years of prison time to be added for anyone convicted of murder or attempted murder if they cause pregnancy loss, boosting the feticide penalty from a Class C to a Class B felony.

The only amendment replaced references to the death of a child in utero with new language referring to the termination of a human pregnancy, matching existing language in the state's feticide law. The Senate had passed the bill by a 40-9 vote on Feb. 25, and will now reconsider it with the new language.

Lawmakers leading the effort were Sen. James Merritt and Rep. Mike Murphy, both R-Indianapolis, and Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond. The legislation comes in response to an Indianapolis shooting in April 2008, when a pregnant bank teller was shot in the abdomen and later lost the twin girls she'd been carrying for about six months. One was stillborn, and the other died about five hours after the premature birth.

Current law only allows murder charges to be filed if a fetus has reached "viability," or about seven months. Approximately 37 states have feticide laws and about 18 of those consider the killing of a fetus at any stage to be murder, Merritt noted.

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