SB 561 — Criminal Law – Homicide –Fetus (Laura and Reid’s Law)

Committee: Senate Judicial Proceedings

Position: SUPPORT

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 561. The Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

SB 561 will expand Maryland law to establish a crime of manslaughter or murder when a fetus is killed before 24 weeks of pregnancy as a result of an intentional attack on a pregnant woman. The leading cause of pregnancy-associated death in Maryland is homicide, the majority of which were committed by current or former intimate partners. According to Maternal Health Reports, Maryland’s rate of pregnancy-associated homicide has been 10 times above the national average. Fetal homicide most commonly occurs during the first three months of pregnancy, usually after a woman has confirmed that she is expecting.

Violence against women has a devastating effect on the individual as well as those around them. The Conference works to protect the well-being and safety of all people from violence, especially from violence in the home. This legislation aims to strengthen protections for pregnant women and their unborn child who are victims of violence. It is the duty of the state and our elected officials to protect its citizens, and passing SB 561 would do just that.

By allowing charges for fetal homicide to apply to a fetus less than 24-weeks gestation, this legislation will act as a deterrent to future violent crimes against pregnant women and will enable law enforcement to charge offenders for fetal homicides that are now shielded from those charges because of current law.

It is for these reasons that the Conference respectfully urges a favorable report for SB 561. Thank you for your consideration.