Family continues efforts for fetal homicide bill

August 24, 2003|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Rosemary Hazlett plans to mark the first anniversary of her late grandson's death by placing flowers on his grave today.

Caleb Denham, the unborn child of Ralph and Leah Denham, was delivered stillborn after his parents were involved in an automobile accident in August, 2002.

Hazlett, speaking on behalf of Caleb Denham's parents, will meet with media today outside Buffalo Springs Cemetery in hopes of keeping her grandson's memory alive through proposed fetal homicide legislation. She and state representative Stan Lee (R-Lexington) are pushing passage of the Caleb-Haley Act, a proposal that would change the definition of a person to include an unborn child.

Her grandson was not considered a person under state law because he did not take a breath outside the womb. The man who struck the Denham vehicle, Stephen James, was not charged with homicide and is currently serving an 11-year sentence.


"We just want to mark that Sunday as Caleb Denham's first birthday, and keep the bill in their eyes and in their thoughts," said Hazlett. "As fall approaches, I'm going to start making some phone calls."

This year marks the fourth time Lee has filed the Caleb-Haley act, a fetal homicide bill named after two unborn children killed by drunken drivers before birth.

Lee said he, like the Denham family, would not let Caleb Denham die in vain, despite strong opposition from fellow representatives and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

"They (the ACLU) say this is an assault on abortion rights ... My point is, if you want to legally protect choice, you need to legally protect the choice of life by the mother," said Lee.

Beth Wilson, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said the group supports fetal homicide laws which punish crimes against pregnant women, but not against eggs at the time of conception.

"We are not opposed to creating severe penalties for people who harm pregnant women and make them lose their pregnancies," said Wilson. "What he's trying to do is equate a fertilized egg to a person ... they're also undermining reproductive rights, that's the agenda."

"When someone is intoxicated or recklessly driving their vehicle, and they take the life of another, it shouldn't be a liberal/conservative issue, it should be prosecuted on its merits," said Rep. Danny Ford (R-Mt. Vernon), supporter of the proposed legislation. "I think there was a life that was taken, and anytime that happens, we need legislation to allow for prosecution.

Currently, there are more than 30 states with fetal homicide laws.

"These are really horrendous crimes, and they should be punished, but this backdoor approach is not the way people should be held accountable for their crimes," said Wilson.

As representatives and lobbyists continue to discuss fetal legalities in Frankfort, Hazlett said she would continue her grass-roots movement in support of the fetal homicide act.

"We are still continuing to fight for the bill because this is not the last child to die in Kentucky," said Hazlett. "When I was little my grandmother told me that I would meet a lot of people, but very few would be a true human being. Now as an adult, I understand what she meant. It is not Caleb and Haley that failed to be a human being, it is the people in Frankfort who failed to protect them."

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