WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS GRAPHIC DETAILS
DALLAS (Christian Examiner) -- A horrific Texas case involving a 14-year-old pregnant girl allegedly beaten by family members who killed and burned her eight-month old unborn baby on a charcoal grill -- has shocked the pro-life community and once again underscored the need for what often are called "fetal homicide" laws.
The case also has highlighted America's twisted logic on abortion.
Deputy Police Chief Gil Garza described the gruesome incident in detail at a Wednesday (June 3) news conference, saying it involved a pair of crimes in 2012 and 2013 and that the victim – now 16 – did not come forward until May of this year.
The then-14-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a family member and became pregnant in August 2012 but apparently hid the pregnancy until early 2013, when other family members learned about it, Garza said.
Wanting to cover up a rape and sexual assault within the family -- and realizing that a legal abortion wasn't feasible -- a cousin, Sharon Jones, gave the girl "multiple doses of birth control pills, Plan B [emergency contraception] pills and cinnamon tablets ... to abort the baby," police were quoted as saying in The Dallas Morning News.
When that did not work, another cousin, Cecila McDonald, held the girl down while a third cousin, Lonnell McDonald, began "repeatedly bouncing up and down" while sitting on the girl's abdomen, the newspaper said. He also kicked her abdomen.
Cecila McDonald allegedly told her, "You ain't about to get my kids taken away from me."
Jones told the girl – who was in extreme pain – to cry into a pillow, according to an affidavit filed by the minor's friend.
The beating allegedly lasted for about six hours until the girl began bleeding.
Two hours later, she delivered a stillborn, which was placed by family members in a charcoal grill and burned.
But that did not completely get rid of the remains, so Jones paid another cousin, Cedric Jones, $25 to "take care of the rest of it."
Sharon Jones, 45; Cedric Jones, 27; Cecila McDonald, 25; and Lonnell McDonald, 27, were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and were jailed, with bail at $150,000 each, the Morning News reported. A fifth family member, Robert Joseph Cayald, 22, was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Other charges, though, could be added. The minor is currently in protective custody, according to Garza.
TEXAS LAW CONCERNING THE UNBORN
Texas is one of 38 states that recognize the unlawful killing of an unborn child as a homicide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (Twenty-nine of those states – including Texas – have laws that cover the entire pregnancy.) They're often called "fetal homicide" laws.
Texas' law, signed in 2003 by Gov. Rick Perry, extends the protections of the entire criminal code to "an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth."
The laws have been championed by pro-life groups as a way to protect some unborn life, although even pro-lifers have been forced to bend to the legal landscape, which allows for legal abortion.
For example, Texas' law explicitly says it does not apply to "conduct committed by the mother of the unborn child" – meaning the 14-year-old girl could have, under Texas law, caused her own abortion and it would have been legal. The Texas' law also carves out an exception for abortion doctors. Such language is necessary not only to garner votes in the legislature for fetal homicide laws but also to avoid lengthy and costly court battles.
The laws, though, do make a difference.
If the crime had been committed in one of the 12 states that have no fetal homicide law, prosecutors would have limited options. That was the case in Colorado earlier this year in one of the more grotesque assault cases in memory.
Police say a 34-year-old woman named Dynel Lane attacked a pregnant woman, cut the seven-month-old unborn baby from the woman's womb, and then left the woman for dead. The woman, Michelle Wilkins, miraculously survived, but the baby died.
OTHER STATE LAWS
Colorado has no fetal homicide law, and Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said he could not file murder charges under state law. Lane was charged on seven counts, including unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
"Colorado criminal law ... defines homicide as the killing of a person by another," Garnett said, according to the Longmont Times Call newspaper. "It defines a person, when referring to the victim of a homicide, as a human being born and alive at the time of the homicidal act."
A federal law, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, recognizes an unborn child as a victim if it's killed or injured during a federal crime, but the law does not apply to either the Texas or Colorado cases.
Culture writer La Shawn Barber, in a 2012 World Magazine article, said America's view of the unborn child defies logic and common sense.
"For years I've tried to wrap my mind around the shifting status of an unborn baby and make sense of the rationale," she wrote. "The baby is worthy of protection only if the mother wants him. Otherwise, he, or rather it, is a problem that needs fixing. If someone other than a doctor or licensed healthcare provider (who has the mother's consent) causes his death, the perpetrator might be punished. The mother's choice trumps all other considerations. If she chooses to carry the baby, he's a person. If she doesn't, he isn't."
Barber continued, "It's probably difficult even for abortion supporters to perceive the baby as mere tissue (diseased?) with fetal homicide and non-discriminatory abortion laws on the books. And that is the point. The more the law recognizes the unborn child as a person with rights, the harder it is to be casual about his death. The more technology improves, the more we know about fetal development. Science reveals the awesomeness of this miracle formed in the womb, and we bear witness to God's ultimate purpose behind it."