Laura and Reid's Law advances in Senate

Sen. Justin Ready (right), sponsor of SB 561, speaks at a press conference in February for the introduction of Laura & Reid's Law. He is joined by Mark Wallen (center right, father of Laura and grandfather of Reid) as well as cosponsor Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (center left) and House sponsor Del. Trent Kittleman (left)

An amended version of Laura & Reid's Law (SB 561) was passed Friday, March 15 by the Maryland Senate. The bill now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration.

"Today's vote was a critical step in protecting pregnant women from domestic violence," said Therese Hessler, associate director at the Maryland Catholic Conference. "Pregnant women in Maryland are at increased risk of domestic violence because we don't have laws on our books that allow our prosecutors and our courts the ability to take additional action when pregnant women are violently attacked and their unborn children killed. While we would have liked to have seen the original bill pass, we are pleased that something significant is being done to protect Maryland women and their children."

As introduced, the bill would have expanded the state's existing fetal homicide law to allow for prosecution when a fetus younger than 24 weeks is killed through a violent attack on a pregnant woman.

However, the bill was amended to instead create an enhanced penalty of up to 10 years in prison that courts can apply when a pregnant woman is a victim of violence, regardless if her unborn child is or is not harmed, at the hands of someone who knew she was pregnant. Maryland's existing fetal homicide law, which allows prosecutors to seek an additional murder charge when a pregnant woman, who is 24 weeks or more, is attacked and her unborn child is killed, remains unchanged. 

Sine Die, the last day of session, is less than 4 weeks away. The bill must pass both chambers before midnight on April 8 to go to the Governor for a signature.