April 20, 2003

double murder charge for scott peterson?

Mavra Stark, NOW's Morris County, New Jersey chapter President, has expressed some concerns over charging Scott Peterson with the murder of his and his dead wife Laci's eight-month old fetus. A Bergen Daily Record article about this can be read by clicking HERE.

As Ms. Stark states her concern; "If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder." "There's something about this that bothers me a little bit," Stark said. "Was it born or was it un-born? If it was un-born
then I can't see charging (Peterson) with a double-murder."

The issue is abortion rights, and how "elevating" an un-born fetus to a status whereby it's intentional demise (by a third party--mother exempted presumably) could bring a murder charge upon the person(s) responsible for it's death. If the killing of an eight month old fetus is be considered murder, is that only the first step in the slippery slope toward calling all abortion murder?

The legal and philosophical questions can give you a migraine. Roe vs Wade guarantees an abortion on demand to any woman during the first trimester of her pregnancy. After that a State can write it's own laws regarding the status of the fetus. One State can outlaw any and all abortions after the first 90 days, another can legally protect any and all abortions right up until the actual birth of the child. Since the Federal government doesn't recognize a person as a citizen or non-citizen until they're born, the States are free to put whatever restrictions on abortion they see fit.

According to the linked article, "Under California law, murder charges can result if the fetus is older than seven weeks." This is either a misprint -- as seven weeks falls well within the first trimester wherein Roe vs Wade has operatively ruled that a fetus is not a person entitled to any legal protection whatsoever -- and it should read "seven months", or, the California laws allow the fetus to be protected if the mother is not the one responsible for the loss.

Assuming that the language in the article is accurate and the latter interpretation is correct, the legal and philosophical gymnastics inherent is fashioning coherent abortion law is at the heart of the Peterson double-murder debate. When is a fetus a person, and who is to decide that? One six month old fetus is not a person because it's mother decides it is not a person. Another six month old fetus is a person, because it's mother decides that it is.

That's all well and good for many Americans, it seems like an acceptable compromise between our conflicted thoughts and feelings about the issue. But when the subjective individual decisions on the status of a human is codified into law there is a curious problem: equal protection doesn't extend to the un-born. If the legal status of the fetus is settled by the whim of the mother, then it's not the fetus' rights that are being protected; it is the mother's. But, then, if the fetus has no such inalienable rights, it can have no such status that the mother might claim it to have. A would-be "murderer" is at the mercy of the Rule Of Fiat, not the Rule Of Law. But it's the Law that allows this to be! Oy, my brain hurts!

I believe that NOW, at least as evidenced by Marva Stark, is in favor of legal abortions right up until birth since she also said:

"He (the 8 month old male fetus) was wanted and expected, and she (Laci Peterson) had a name for him (Connor), but if he wasn't born, he wasn't born. It sets a kind of precedent."

She is clearly in favor using only the Federal government's criteria for deciding upon the status of the un-born: If it ain't born it ain't a person, and has no legal status and no right of protection under the law. She (and presumably NOW) opposes any restriction on abortion on demand through the entire nine month term. State laws that put restrictions on abortion after the first trimester that are actually enforced represent a "kind of precedent" that she fears will lead to the spread of more restrictions, resulting in the those rights only guaranteed by Roe vs Wade....and then that will fall as well.

Not for nothin', but I think that opposing the double-murder charge for Scott Peterson is evidence that Stark is a bit paranoid. It's kind of like a pro-2nd Amendment guy saying "If they take away our anti-aircraft missle launchers then our shotguns are next!" One shouldn't be so worried about the slippery slope of vanishing rights that one supports infanticide to defend one's privacy.

Well, I think Ms. Stark is aware of that as she did qualify her understandable concerns with the caveat, "it's just something I've been ruminating on." I've been ruminating on it, too...and now I need some Advil.

Posted by Tuning Spork at April 20, 2003 07:31 PM


Posted by: sddvvd at September 9, 2003 03:06 PM

I just want to know what ever happened to Innocent
until proven guilty ???
This man has not even gone to trial and people have already pinned him guilty !!
I dont believe he can even have a fair trial at this point. How can they find a jury that has not already been swayed by the press report's.
It just doesnt seem right. I think everyone deserve's a fair trial.

Posted by: Kimmie at December 3, 2003 10:53 PM

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