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turning tragedy into politics

[Daily Record]

The head of the National Organization for Women's Morris County chapter is opposing a double-murder charge in the Laci Peterson case, saying it could provide ammunition to the pro-life lobby.

"If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder," Morris County NOW President Mavra Stark said on Saturday.

It was not Laci Peterson's choice to die. It was not her choice to have her baby die. There's a big difference between laying on operating table willingly and having your late-term baby taken from you - something I cannot comprehend anyhow1> - and having that child's life forcefully snuffed out.

Whether the killing of Connor Peterson is or is not murder is not the real issue here.

As far as I'm concerned, Mavra Stark and all of her NOW compatriots should learn how to keep their mouths shut once in a while. It was not necessary for them to weigh in on this story at all. Why take someone's tragedy and turn it into a political debate, if not for the publicity?

And that's really all it comes down to. Mavra Stark saw an opening and ran with it. She has taken a terrible murder and made it an abortion issue.

Not everything that happens in this world has a for and against. Not every story can be sorted out and divided up into good and bad, right and wrong, left and right.

Some things are better left unsaid. I think the people who are reacting to this story with a willingness to let Scott Peterson be tried for double homicide are reacting out of anger, sadness and repulsion for the crimes committed, not out of anti-abortion righteousness.

After watching news reports of Peterson's arrest, Stark expressed concern with the tone of the coverage.

"There's something about this that bothers me a little bit," Stark said. "Was it born, or was it unborn? If it was unborn, then I can't see charging (Peterson) with a double-murder."

The tone of the coverage? Shock? Outrage? Grief? What did she expect? The woman was seven months pregnant. The baby was found separate from the mother, his umbilical cord still attached. What tone did Stark expect the news coverage to have?

What should bother her is nothing more and nothing less than is bothering most of us following the story. A man (allegedly) killed his very pregnant wife. He tied her down with weights. He (allegedly) left her and thier son to wither away underneath the water, expecting that no one would ever find their bodies, that they would just drift off into that place where memories go.

Instead, she is going to co-opt this story and make it the NOW crusade of the moment.

1 I will get this out of the way right now to avoid having to answer in the comments: I am pro-choice, to an extent. It would not be the choice for me, I may not agree with your choice to have an abortion, but I wouldn't take that right away from you. However, I think I should mention that I think late-term abortions are abhorent. To purposefully kill a baby that would have been able to sustain itself outside of the womb is beyond reasoning to me.


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It disgusts me that people will try to use a tragedy to further their agendas. However, she does have a very legitimate point from a legal perspective. If killing a fetus is murder, then abortion is murder. (Unless you want to argue that it's ok for someone to kill your fetus as long as you give them permission first, and that's just not going to fly) If courts start setting precedents for that, then the pro-choice movement has real cause for concern. As a pro-lifer, I hope that's exactly how the court rules. But if I were pro-choice, I'd be worried about this case.

Bread and circuses....

This makes my head explode. And it gives more eloquent voice to why I hold NOW in contempt than anything I could have made up myself.

Here's a thought for NOW--how about letting folks grieve and get over the shock/horror/disgust at being confronted yet again by human depravity before you start flogging that political horse of yours.

It's called tact and decency. Look into it.

Most states include in their criminal law the deliberate killing of a fetus as murder, but provide an exception for abortion. They've done so since the late 70's.

dave: I was going tp type a response, but it got long on me. If you're interested, you can see it here.

Am I missing something? I thought ANY form of abortion after the THIRD trimester was illegal. Is it possible to have a legal abortion when the term is 7-8 months? Aren't some babies born premature during this period, and sometimes end up vibrant and healthy?

I've always seen NOW as representing the demographic of ugly ass hags who support and fight for the right of murdering children, born and unborn.

Okay, well I'm pro-choice, but there is a HUGE difference between aborting a fetus in the first trimester and a baby in the third. I believe a woman has a right to choose up to a point. After viablily all bets are off. My son was born at 26 weeks gestation and he survived with the help of a little medical intervention. There are babies who have survived as early as 22 weeks. Had the baby been cut from her womb it had a chance at survival on it's own.

JimK- I don't think we're that far apart. I should've been more specific and said "late term abortion", I suppose. At least in the context of this discussion.

My personal view as a staunch pro-lifer is that all abortion is indeed murder. I can't, however, agree with your assertion that this means male masturbation is also murder, because male masturbation doesn't destroy a fertilized egg. I don't consider that to be an "abortion" of anything: to me, "abortion" means aborting a pregnancy that already exists. Your argument would also make all use of birth control homicidal.

Despite what "the Church" would have us believe, I don't think God only intended us to discharge semen when we want to have kids. We've got more people than we can feed and care for as it is...no need to make billions more.

First of all, since two bodies were found, I don't see how this is an issue at all. Two bodies, double homicide. NOW should have just kept out of it on that basis alone.

Second of all, several states already have laws on the books that make it possible to charge someone with double homicide for killing a pregnant woman. Those laws exempt legal abortion from the statutes. I know it's a little weird from a pro-choice perspective (and I am pro-choice as well), but I really don't have a problem with those statutes. Especially when you're talking about a viable fetus.

I dont know enough of the details of the case, Lesley, but it's possible that the fetus was still in the mother when she was killed and put into the water, and became dislodged when her body decomposed. If that's the case, that's where the fetucide issue would come into play.

My husband & I discussed when NOW would become involved in this case, we were hoping that it wouldn't happen - that they would let people grieve for this double tragedy. I'm so ashamed that these woman have nothing better to do than use this for their political agenda.

Never, ever, pass up a chance to hype the agenda ... no matter how despicable. Bad publicity is better then none.

[sigh] Can we first have some proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he did, indeed, kill her or it or them?

Or is it now settled law in this country that accusation is grounds for conviction, and it's up to the defendant to prove himself innocent?

Legally, in California, it's not a double homicide; it's a homicide with special conditions that their AG is calling a double homicide. Politics. At least as I understand it (and IANAL and pretend to be on on neither TV nor the 'net.)

If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder,"

Yes, yes we can call it murder and I do. When a baby is 8 months old and you suck it out of the womb in pieces it's murder in my book. However, the issue here is that this woman was carrying a child that she loved and wanted and never got to see that child be born because the father of that child KILLED her and the baby and what the FUCK DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ABORTION??????

takes deep breaths

Well htom, the issue is "have 2 people been killed, or one?". Then, if you have suffiecient evidence, you charge someone with the crime. That's what's going on, the debate on how to charge the crime, not if he's guilty or not.

There is no question in my mind that Connor Peterson was murdered, regardless of whether or not he was allowed to reach his birthday. While I am pro-life, I would hope that even the staunchest pro-choice supporter is reasonable enough to agree with that. NOW is really pushing the envelope on this one.

We had a case a number of years back in Wisconsin where an abusive husband kicked his pregnant wife in the stomach, resulting in the death of their nearly full-term baby. He was (thankfully) convicted of murder and sent to prison. I hope California's legal system has the stones to do what's right, and not cave in to the ravings of the lunatic fringe.

Akthough Im not privy to the lasws of the US and each state...It would and should with all the lawsuits that take place that this is something that has come up before...or has been thought about. It will be interesting to see what happens...assuming that the press doesnt get board of this even in a week. But Also, really...is a fetus a person? In Canada, a fetus is not considered a living being until almost birth. Sort of strange...there is a court case that you can find involving a pregnaunt lady getting shot...either by someone else or self-inflicted....the bullit hit the fetus and killed it.

Well, here's my 2:

IMO SCOTUS was right in the Roe decision, saying in essence that a fetus isn't a human being with individual rights upon conception. The fetus becomes a human being with rights somewhere during gestation, and they put it somewhere between 3 and 6 months (around the period when the central nervous system is hooking up.) Thus, prior to the end of the first trimester, the woman has the right to terminate the pregnancy. After the first trimester, there must be a legitimate medical reason for termination.

As far as I'm concerned, when a fetus has become viable outside the womb (and we're seeing survival of earlier and earlier preemies) that fetus ABSOLUTELY has individual rights, and killing it IS homicide. It might be JUSTIFIABLE homicide if the mother's life is at stake, but generally it will not be.

Chances are that if Laci Peterson had been severely injured and dying, doctors could have delivered the baby and kept it alive through intensive care. Therefore, murdering Laci (and thereby killing the baby) is a double homicide.

If Laci had been in her first trimester, I would not have considered it a double homicide.

Correction: Regarding the Wisconsin case I mentioned. Looked up some info about it and discovered that the husband was convicted of first degee reckless injury, not murder. Interestingly, there was a similar flap from the far left at the time the resulting fetal homicide bill was signed into law in 2001. Here's the link if you're interested:


This is another cause and effect of the 24×7 cable news maw. Politicans have long used crime to win elections. It just took a while longer for position ghouls to realize they too could gain from extensive news coverage of victims.

The Matthew Shepard murder was used in equally revolting ways as has James Brady.

Have we become so innoculated to violent crime that some see it as an opportunity? I am afraid so.

something i read online which sounds plausible to me is that when a pregnant woman dies, the baby is delivered by the body in an attempt to save its life - the gaseous releases caused by the mother's death would make her body an unsafe place for the child, where on the outside it may stand a chance. i have no medical proof to back that up (although i'd certainly be interested in the medical facts one way or the other). but it does make sense if you think about it.

if this is the case, then it could be deduced that connor was actually born, although there was nobody there to save him, in which case he possibly died from the elements (drowning? who knows) and lack of sustenance. which, in the end, would completely defeat the whole comparison to abortion, on a technicality.

i just don't know how to find out if that's true. i guess i could ask my ob next time i visit him.

ok, not to be gross, but i went looking, and this does happen, apparently. they call it coffin birth or something like that.


It is double homicide in CA. It is covered in PC187:

187. (a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a
fetus, with malice aforethought.
(b) This section shall not apply to any person who commits an act
which results in the death of a fetus if any of the following apply:

(1) The act complied with the Therapeutic Abortion Act, Chapter 11
(commencing with Section 25950) of Division 20 of the Health and
Safety Code.
(2) The act was committed by a holder of a physician's and surgeon's
certificate, as defined in the Business and Professions Code, in a
case where, to a medical certainty, the result of childbirth would be
death of the mother of the fetus or where her death from childbirth,
although not medically certain, would be substantially certain or
more likely than not.
(3) The act was solicited, aided, abetted, or consented to by the
mother of the fetus.
© Subdivision (b) shall not be construed to prohibit the
prosecution of any person under any other provision of law.

Pretty clear that Peterson is now exposed to LWOP or DP due to the special circumstance (allegations) of multiple homicide. If only charged with a single count of PC187, he may only be exposed to 25 to Life, with possibility of parole after serving 80% of his sentence.

Fascinating. I could have sworn that Locklear said it was going to be charged as a single homicide, but with special conditions. Maybe he's even more ignorant than I thought he was, or he suffered in the editing room (or both!)

That's an interesting phrasing, though. If (different case) you had an accidental homicide wherein the woman and fetus were killed (truck fell off overpass and crushed them below, perhaps) it looks like the driver would only be liable for the mother-to-be's death, not the fetus's.

As far as "should", I fear that I'm a bit of an absolutist: the baby lives when it breathes, and so can't be killed before that. This is old, very, very old law, and it influences lots of other things (why you can't deduct the yet-to-be-born on your income tax, for example.) Careful dissection in this case might show that the infant was or was not born living (but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the results.) This is my opinion, you're not required to have it or to agree with it, and many don't.

About California law: even if abortion became illegal in all 49 states, it would remain legal in California. Because of our peculiar political climate, the right to abortion is right up there with freedom of speech, religion, etc. Having said that, a viable fetus is a person under California law, and its murderer can and will be charged with murder. Likewise, a pregnant woman doing drugs can be charged with reckless endangerment and abuse. The two issues are not contradictory. I don't know the woman whom you quoted, but just about anybody can make noise and get attention. Most reasonable people--even those belonging to and supporting NOW, do not believe in nor support her position.

If I'm remembering my Criminal Law correctly (and since that was over a year ago, that's doubtful), if the fetus was able to survive unaided outside the womb when the mother was killed, then the defendant could be charged with double murder. I'm not sure about the current abortion laws and how consistent they are with this. I think the caveat regarding whether the child could survive would be consistent with the abortion legality issue if abortions were not legal that far into the pregnancy.

In any case, the lady from NOW needs to read up on the law before she opens her mouth. Considering that the prosecutor isn't really stretching the law to charge the guy with double murder, she should have nothing to panic about.

Er...of course, I should probably read the law, as well. Thanks for posting the real Calif. law, Darleen! I'm way too rusty on that stuff.

Dana Michelle - I remember that case! I think we read it for class. I want to say it helped set the precedent for the whole viable fetus = legitimate victim thing. Not sure though. Oh, I am SO screwed when it comes time to review for the bar exam...