Indiana Gov. Signs Bill Classifying Killing of Unborn as Murder, Except for When Mother Obtains Abortion

Photo Credit: Nora Pacher

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The governor of Indiana has signed a bill into law that allows prosecutors to charge criminals with murder if an unborn child is intentionally killed in the commission of a crime. The law does not apply to babies who are murdered by abortion.

S.B. 203 was introduced by Republican Senator Aaron Freeman, who wanted to take action after hearing the story of 18-year-old Brittany McNew, who was killed last May in her home while 11 weeks pregnant. While 27-year-old Jonathan McGee was charged with murder for killing McNew, he only was prosecuted with aggravated battery for the death of McNew’s unborn child.

“This was my daughter’s life. This was our first grandbaby,” McNew’s mother, Jennifer Lee, told local television station WISH. “It rips the soul out of you. It’s an emptiness that you can’t explain. It’s a heartbreak that you can’t fix.”

A passionate petition on called for Indiana legislators to amend current law to ensure that those who kill unborn children are charged with murder. Lee refers to her grandchild as “peanut.”

“Peanut had a heartbeat just like his mother, just like you or I. Just because Peanut did not get to breathe the same air as you and I and we did not get to hold him/her does not mean he/she was not a human being,” she wrote.

“It should not matter if Brittany was 1 week pregnant or 40 weeks pregnant. If Peanut was 2 years old or 18 years old, Peanut’s heartbeat would always be the same as ours; the only difference is he or she could have had a name,” Lee noted. “Please help me convince them that our babies are still as human as you and I and they should be treated as such.”

Read the petition in full here.

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Freeman consequently took up the call to propose a bill that included language expressly stating that anyone who “knowingly or intentionally kills a fetus in any stage of development” commits murder. The perpetrator would face an additional 6 to 20 years behind bars.

However, so-called “pro-choice” groups expressed concern that the measure might be applied to mothers who miscarry or obtain an abortion. Therefore, an amendment was later added to the legislation that specifically outlines that the statutes “do not apply to an abortion,” or “a pregnant woman who terminates her own pregnancy or kills a fetus that she is carrying.”

“I want to make it very clear that this is not an abortion bill,” Freeman said, according to the Indy Star. “I am just trying to give the prosecutors another avenue to prosecute folks. … There’s nothing else being intended here.”

The bill passed both houses of legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb on March 25. It goes into effect on July 1.

“We are relieved that Indiana lawmakers have clarified the intent of Indiana’s fetal harm law was never to punish a woman for ending a pregnancy,” remarked Jill Adams of the SIA Legal Team. “There are many more ways the legislature could go about protecting pregnant women than expanding criminalization, but clarifying that these laws can’t be used to punish pregnant Hoosiers is an important step in the right direction.”


However, as previously reported, even in early America, it was believed that abortion should be included under the definition of murder. Philadelphia legal writer, educator and Christian apologist Francis Wharton penned an entire chapter on abortion in his 1855 book “American Criminal Law.”

Wharton called abortionists “persons who are ready to degrade their humanity to this occupation” and stated in regard to abortion in general, “Such conduct cannot be too strongly condemned, and is the more deserving of receiving the punishment awarded for the criminal offense in question.”

In an introductory lecture to his course on obstetrics in 1854, Dr. Hugh Lennox Hodge likewise explained that if a woman were to come to a medical doctor in pursuit of an abortion, “he must, as it were, grasp the conscience of his weak and erring patient and let her know in language not to be misunderstood that she is responsible to her Creator for the life of the being within her.”

“The procuring abortion is ‘a base and unmanly act,’” Hodge also said, quoting in part text from a court ruling of his day. “It is a crime against the natural feelings of man, against the welfare and safety of females, against the peace and prosperity of society, against the divine command ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ It is murder.”

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