Lawmakers pass legislutation to protect fetuses

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter , Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday that would make it a crime to kill or injure a fetus at any stage of development.

Right now someone who kills a fetus could face stiffer penalties, but only if the fetus dies after it has developed to a point where it can survive outside the womb.

Current law also doesn't apply to injured fetuses.

This bill would eventually relate to cases like the one involving Virginia Wyche.  The Jacksonville woman is charged with shooting pregnant 23-year-old Makeisha Brooks in the abdomen.

Whether the fetus is six weeks old, or nine months old, this bill says if someone hurts or kills a pregnant woman and her baby, they would be charged with two counts of murder.

Local Attorney Richard Kuritz says because this bill is very emotionally charged, Gov. Rick Scott needs to make sure before signing, that it will stand up to legal standards and scrutiny.

"Now it's simply, it has to be viable. The state attorneys office has to prove that medical doctors have to talk about it now it's simply if a woman's pregnant there is a fetus its a crime," said Kuritz.

Injuring or killing a fetus would lead to a criminal facing tougher punishment no matter how far along in the pregnancy. It would become Florida law if the governor signs the bill that has already been approved by legislature.

Kuritz said this is much different from the current law, which doesn't even apply to an injured fetus, only if a fetus is killed at a point when it could survive outside of the womb. He said because this is an emotional topic, it needs to be well written and able to stand up to scrutiny.

"We don't want it to be something that's so broad and vague that someone who is in a car accident can kill someone and all the sudden be charged in a criminal act so if were going to do something we need to do it right," said Kuritz.

Just this week, 35-year-old Wyche was charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Brooks, who was pregnant, after an argument on Facebook. Brooks has been upgraded to stable condition at UF Health Jacksonville, but her baby, who was six months, along didn't make it.

Because the bill hasn't been signed by Scott, it wouldn't be relevant in this case, but it's an example of a case this bill would eventually apply to. Sheriff John Rutherford weighed in on this case, clearly upset about the lack of concern out society has for a living human being.

"When someone gets in an argument and shoots a pregnant woman, of all things, in the abdomen over just a posting on Facebook, that shows there is no sanctity of life anymore," said Rutherford.

Because it is so emotionally charged, Kuritz said he thinks something will happen sooner than later because he said it could be a popular move for the governor, and because of that he thinks Scott will speak very soon on the issue.

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.