Editorial: Legislators should add viability clause to fetal homicide bill

January 12, 2004

It's often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Someone needs to explain this concept to Rep. Stan Lee, (R)-Lexington, and the other legislators who are once again pushing a fetal homicide bill through the state Senate without a viability clause.

The Caleb-Haley Act (SB4), as it is written, would recognize unborn children as persons, thereby granting them protection under the state's criminal statutes.

The bill is named after Caleb Denham and Haley Thornsberry, both of which were full-term, unborn babies who died as a result of traffic accidents involving drivers who were under the influence.


The Senate bill grants protection to fetuses from the moment of conception and makes no distinction between viability (typically 24 weeks) and conception. Therein lies the problem.

As it has many times before, this legislation will fail. It will do so not because it's not important legislation, but because those drafting the bill refuse to include a viability clause, thereby alienating a majority of members of the legislature who feel that only viable fetuses should be granted protection under the law.

The concern is that granting protection to fetuses from the moment of conception is a slippery slope and could be used to attack abortion rights. It is the same problem facing similar legislation at the federal level. Over the past several years, The Unborn Victims of Violence Act has been introduced and re-introduced in Congress, but continually fails to gain passage.

At the start of this state legislative session, House Democrats introduced their own fetal homicide bill that does include a viability clause, and now Lee and his fellow conservatives can show just how important they think this legislation is to the people of Kentucky.

Lee and many others in the legislature have proclaimed loud and clear that they oppose abortion rights and believe that all babies deserve protection.

These members should ask themselves how badly they want to protect children like Caleb Denham and Haley Thornsberry - both of whom were full-term babies who died unexpectedly as the result of someone else's criminal behavior. Children whose deaths could not be legally prosecuted as criminal acts because state law doesn't currently allow it.

Its time for Lee and his supporters to work together with other members of the legislature and put aside their own personal views and focus on what's important - protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

After all, it's better to get some of what you want than nothing at all.

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