5/1/2006 - May 2006 Educational Update - Unborn Child Now a Person Under Alabama Criminal Law
AN EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM
THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE™, INC.
To: SLI Supporters
Date: May 2006
From: A. Eric Johnston
Re: Unborn Child Now a Person Under Alabama Criminal Law
In 2003 Representative Spencer Collier (R-Irvington) came to the Alabama Legislature with a major purpose in mind. As an Alabama state trooper he had investigated an incident that took the life of an unborn child, yet there was no crime. In California, when Scott Peterson killed his wife and unborn child, Laci and Connor Peterson, it was a double murder. Thirty-one states had criminal laws protecting the unborn. Alabama did not. Collier, along with Senator Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), introduced bills to change this. Four years later on April 17, 2006 Governor Bob Riley signed into law the “Brody Act” protecting the unborn from criminal acts.
The Legislative Process
The first version of the bill was complex and labored. SLI offered its services and developed a simplified approach to establishing the personhood of the unborn child for criminal law purposes. The SLI version of the bill became the law.
As we have come to expect in Alabama, its legislature does not favor the unborn. Throughout the entire quadrennium, that is an entire election cycle of four years, the leadership of the Alabama Senate would not consider the bill until in the last year, an election year, sufficient pressure was brought on Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley, Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rodger Smitherman. For three years, the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to even permit the bill to be considered by the committee; in other words, the committee never voted on it, much less the entire Senate. During those four years, the House Judiciary Committee under Chairman Marcel Black voted the bill out each year. Speaker Seth Hammett and House leadership permitted House votes and the bill passed each year.
An unlikely opponent of the bill during its last two years was the Alabama District Attorney’s Association. They insisted the personhood of the unborn only begin at viability. Viability has only two applications: (l) in medicine, it deals with the possibility of when the child may live outside the womb; (2) in law, it only has application under the Roe v. Wade doctrine of when the state may regulate abortion on demand. Whether the motives of the Association were political or they were simply misinformed on constitutional law, we cannot actually say. Certainly the latter is true and the former is suspicious. Abortion supporters and clinic operators opposed the bill. Although the bill clearly excepted legal abortion, their mantra was that it would somehow criminalize abortion. The guilty flee when no one pursues.
In 1601, the English Common Law developed the “born alive rule,” i.e., a person must be born and alive before a crime could be perpetrated on him. It was not until the mid 1800s that the developing science of embryology established how development was going on in the woman’s body. Proof of the death of an unborn person was difficult. Today, we know the processes and the reality of the unborn person within his mother’s womb. When Alabama became a state in 1819, it adopted the English Common Law. When Alabama developed it criminal code, it adopted the born alive rule. That rule remained our law until now.
Effective July 1, 2006, the definition of a “person” for purposes of Alabama’s criminal law for the prosecution of assault and homicide will change. Section 13A-6-1, 1975 Code of Alabama will read as follows:
“(3) PERSON. The term, when referring to the victim of a criminal homicide or assault, means a human being, including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.”
Other parts of the law clarify that a healthcare provider may not be prosecuted for mistake or error and legal abortions are an exception.
SLI is grateful to have been of service to the Alabama Legislature and the state under the leadership of Representative Collier and Senator Byrne. The legislative road on issues of the unborn is always rocky. We feel that God’s grace has played a significant role in our efforts to accomplish protection for the unborn. This new law will now give district attorneys the necessary weapon to prosecute criminals who perpetrate crimes which result in assaults on or the deaths of unborn children.
“This act shall be known as the ‘Brody Act,’ in memory of the unborn son of Brandy Parker,
whose death occurred when she was 8-1/2 months pregnant.”
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