Tragic Deaths May be First Cases Prosecuted Under Tennessee’s recently expanded Unborn Victims of Violence Act

Editor’s note. The following was sent out today by Tennessee Right to Life, National Right to Life’s state affiliate.

While police continue searching for their killer, the recent murders of Brittany Caroline Eldridge and her unborn child could be the first cases prosecuted under Tennessee’s recently expanded Unborn Victims of Violence Act.  As passed in May, HB 498 / SB 633 establishes that unborn children at any age of gestational development may be legally considered victims of assault or homicide.  Previous Tennessee statute only recognized unborn victims after the age of viability, generally considered to be 24-25 weeks.

Local newspaper accounts had reported that the Knox County District Attorney’s office was “waiting on an autopsy to verify whether or not the infant was viable in order to ascertain if there would be one or two homicide prosecutions.”

Tennessee’s new law, however, is very plain and specifically states that when a defendant “commits a homicide or assault against a pregnant woman, the woman’s fetus, regardless of viability, is also considered a victim of the offense.”

Sponsored by Rep. Joshua Evans (R-Greenbrier) and  Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt Juliet), the policy change was signed into law by Governor Haslam and took effect on July 1 as Public Chapter 408.  As such, Tennessee joined 26 other states which define the killing of an unborn child at any stage of gestation as a form of homicide.

Studies conducted about violence against pregnant women including those conducted in Maryland, Illinois and New York found that homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women.  The growing violence against pregnant women prompted Tennessee legislators to consider the legislation that would recognize the lives of unborn children assaulted or killed in the commission of a crime as well as that of the mother.

Tennessee Right to Life thanks you and other members for helping elect pro-life majorities to the Tennessee Senate, House and U.S. Congress.  In 2010, 90% of our endorsed candidates won their races.  And since 2009, eight key pro-life provisions have been passed by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Editor’s note. You can find a complete list of the state laws on this at www.nrlc.org/Unborn_victims/Statehomicidelaws092302.html