INDIANAPOLIS-- A pro-life bill to increase the criminal penalties for the crime of feticide became state law Thursday when the Senate overwhelmingly voted to override pro-abortion Gov. Frank O'Bannon's veto last spring of a 1997 bill to allow individuals who intentionally kill a viable fetus during a crime to be charged with murder.
The Senate vote was 37-12 to override. Last week, the House voted 87-9 to override.
People who kill an unborn child as part of a crime involving aggravated battery can be charged with a Class B felony. While the bill exempts those performing or receiving abortions, O'Bannon vetoed it, saying he feared it would make doctors who perform abortions criminally liable.
"I was shocked, especially when I read the (governor's veto) message," said pro-life Rep. James Buck, R-Kokomo, who introduced the legislation.
Buck said he introduced the bill because of a 1995 Indianapolis drive-by shooting. The case stemmed from a dispute over a parked car, escalated into a racial argument, and culminated in the shooting of Melanie Elmore and her husband, Kevin.
Melanie, 8 1/2 months pregnant, was struck in the abdomen by shotgun blasts. Her baby was mortally wounded and stillborn.
Two brothers, Judge and Troy Hatchett, were charged with feticide, attempted murder and conspiracy. A jury found the two Indianapolis men not guilty of all charges in a 1996 trial.
What shocked Buck at the time was that under Indiana law, the unborn baby's killer could not be charged with murder because an unborn child is not legally considered a person until birth. A charge of feticide, a Class C felony, carries a two- to eight-year prison sentence. Buck's legislation would allow for a murder charge.
Right-to-life organizations such as Indiana Citizens for Life and Indiana Democrats for Life, lobbied strongly for passage of the legislation in 1997. Both organizations were saddened that leaders from Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations took a stance in opposition to legislation helping pregnant mothers.
Buck's legislation gives legal standing to a fetus at viability for the first time in Indiana.
While it was not mentioned on the Indiana Senate floor, Thursday marked 25 years since the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision that made abortion legal on demand through all nine months of pregnancy.
Pro-abortion Governor Frank O'Bannon didn't lobby lawmakers about the bill, said his chief spokesman, Phil Bremen. --