Crimes against unborn bill in Fla. draws questions

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Associated Press

Posted on April 9, 2014 at 7:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 9 at 7:05 PM

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — House Democrats raised several questions about a bill that would allow separate criminal charges for the death of fetuses, no matter what stage of development the crime is committed against the mother.

The bill (HB 59) expands current law, which allows a separate murder or manslaughter charge for the death of a fetus if it is developed to the point where it could survive outside the womb. The bill would also change the law to apply to injured fetuses.

Democrats asked several questions, including whether someone could be criminally charged if they kicked a pregnant woman in the stomach while playing soccer and the woman later had a miscarriage.

Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, also asked bill sponsor Rep. Larry Ahern if police and firefighters responding to a car accident would have to ask an injured women about their sexual history, and if a minor said she was pregnant, would they have to inform her parents.

"That's not the way I interpret it," said Ahern, R-Seminole, saying that prosecutors would later decide if the law was violated. "Unless there's some criminal intent or some actual malfeasance, those are not things determined at the scene of an accident."

House members were only allowed to ask questions about the bill. Debate on it is expected Friday. But the number of questions indicates Democrats will oppose the bill.

Similar bills have been filed and died nearly every year since the law applying to viable fetuses was passed in 2005. This year it has gained more attention because of the case of a Tampa-area woman who had a miscarriage after her ex-boyfriend tricked her into taking an abortion drug. Remee Jo Lee testified during committee meetings that local authorities couldn't charge John Welden with a crime, leaving it to federal authorities to charge him with killing the unborn child.

Welden faced up to life imprisonment before reaching a plea deal on lesser charges. He was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison.

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Follow Brendan Farrington on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bsfarrington

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