Police in California are reportedly considering charges against a man who allegedly punched the stomach of his pregnant girlfriend in hopes of killing their unborn baby.
The mother, whose name has not been released, was believed to have been about 30 weeks pregnant (seven and a half months) when she arrived at the Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, where she delivered a baby girl, who died a short time after.
Medical staff at the hospital noted “severe bruising” on the woman’s stomach, which she claimed resulted from a fall while mopping, KBAK-TV reported. Hospital workers, though, weren’t convinced, so they called the police, who came to interview the mother.
That’s when authorities learned an entirely different story.
Law enforcement officers said the woman told them she agreed to allow her boyfriend to punch her stomach “at least 10 times.” After facing the repeated blows, the woman said she “stopped feeling the baby move.”
While the boyfriend denies the mother’s claims, the infant was born with severe wounds ranging from a fractured skull to spinal injuries, according to Fox News.
Will he be charged?
There is a lot of debate within the legal and law enforcement communities about whether this kind of action should be considered a punishable crime.
Deputy District Attorney Gina Pearl hasn’t given much insight into the case, but told reporters earlier this week her office is “actively reviewing it.” She described the circumstances as “unique” and said there are “a lot of different angles” involved.
California penal code describes murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” However, the law further stipulates murder charges regarding an unborn baby won’t be pursued if the infant’s death resulted from a lawful abortion or if “the act was solicited, aided, abetted, or consented to by the mother of the fetus.”
Marylee Shrider, executive director of Right to Life Kern County, said she was “shocked” and “wanted to burst into tears” upon learning about the baby girl’s untimely death. She described the entire ordeal as “pretty sickening.”
“Even if she thought of it, what kind of man would say, ‘Yeah, I’ll punch you in the stomach until the baby is dead?’” Shrider said of the boyfriend who allegedly punched the pregnant woman’s belly repeatedly.
Pro-Choice Kern County founder Jennifer Bloomquist said she didn’t like the circumstances surrounding this particular case, but used the situation as a way to promote increased access to abortion.
“We can prevent future cases by offering greater access and even funding for abortions,” she claimed. “Safe and legal abortions, not induced miscarriages.”
Bloomquist and Shrider are clearly at odds ideologically.
While the law might be ambiguous, Shrider said, there are “no gray areas” morally, pointing to the fact that when a pregnant mother is killed by a drunken driver, for example, the government typically charges those responsible with double homicide, granting personhood to the unborn child.
“So the only difference in this case is the mother didn’t want the baby,” she said. “The baby is a human being or she’s not. The fact that she’s wanted or not wanted is not relevant. It doesn’t make her less human.”
For her part, Bloomquist said it’s “definitely a gray area.”