Rape pregnancies must not be terminated as it would be ‘tampering with evidence’

A REPUBLICAN lawmaker in New Mexico offered an extraordinary explanation for introducing a bill this week that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to full term.

Foetuses that were the result of rape, said Cathrynn Brown, constituted “evidence of a crime”.

Cathrynn Brown

Cathrynn Brown

If  House Bill 206 becomes law, a rape victim who ended her pregnancy would be charged with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

The bill says:

Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a foetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.

Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive non-profit opposing the bill, yesterday called it:

Blatantly unconstitutional. The bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state. According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the foetus to term in order to prove their case.

The bill is unlikely to pass, as Democrats have a majority in both chambers of New Mexico’s state legislature.

Brown said in a statement on Thursday that she introduced the bill with the goal of punishing the person who commits incest or rape and then procures or facilitates an abortion to destroy the evidence of the crime.

New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders. By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.

Meanwhile, it is reported here that a Catholic hospital in Colorado, faced with a lawsuit over the deaths of a woman and the twins she was carrying, is claiming that foetus are not people, thereby flying in the face the Church’s insistence that:

Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death.

The case concerns Lori Stodghill, 31, who was seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth.

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based non-profit organisation that runs St Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion.

The organisation’s mission, according to its promotional literature, is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and to be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel”. To those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But when it came to mounting a defence in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organisations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons”, and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments.

Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn foetuses on grounds that those foetuses are not persons with legal rights.

Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defence, that the court:

Should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn foetuses.

The Supreme Court is set to decide whether to take the case in the next few weeks.

Hat tip: John C (New Mexico report) and Gasputin & Dog Gone