Unborn Children are Still Protected Against Violent Crimes in Texas

On 30 June 2010, the highest court of criminal appeals in Texas affirmed a capital conviction for the murder of a mother and her unborn child.  In 2005, Adrian Estrada murdered a 17 year-old girl, Stephanie Sanchez, who was thirteen weeks pregnant.  Estrada was charged with the murder of the unborn child in addition to the murder of pregnant Stephanie.

In 2003, Texas Right to Life led the efforts to pass the Texas Prenatal Protection Act, which moved quickly through the legislature shortly after the bodies of murdered Laci and Connor Peterson were discovered.  (Laci was pregnant with her son Connor when they were brutally murdered.)  The Texas law established a wall of protection for pregnant women and their unborn children from reckless or violent criminal behavior.

The Prenatal Protection Act and similar laws around the country have been challenged by several legal battles, but these laws have always been found as constitutional.  Thomas Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, who filed a brief in favor of the law, noted, “Cases like this one are a major step toward society recogniz[ing]that all unborn children deserve the full protection of law, not just those 'wanted' by their mothers.”

In this recent Texas case, Estrada’s lawyers argued that the Texas Prenatal Protection Act violated the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.  However, the Criminal Court of Appeals ruled against these claims, noting an earlier case in Texas when the court decided the following in regard to the Prenatal Protection Act:

[The law] does not involve a pregnant woman’s liberty interest in choosing to have an abortion and that Roe has no application to a statute that prohibits a third party from causing the death of a woman’s unborn child against her will.

The court upheld the double conviction of Estrada for both murders.  Texas is one of almost forty states that legally recognize mother and unborn child as separate victims in violent crimes against pregnant women.  Even though Roe is still the law of the land, the enforcement of the Prenatal Protection Act confirms the state has a legitimate legal interest in protecting unborn children.