County officials push for fetus bill

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 11, 2005

J.R. Sample decided Alabama was overdue for a law that protects unborn children from violence and murders, and now he’s pushing for the state to take that step.

For the third time, Sample is leading a campaign to establish a fetus protection law in Alabama.

Sample, an investigator for the Shelby County district attorney’s office, said two cases in particular made the need seem urgent to him.

During one case, a midwife was helping a lady during natural child delivery when the birth went bad.

The woman was rushed to the hospital, and medical staff told Sample the midwife was not following protocol and the mishap could have been avoided. The baby died.

Sample wanted to arrest the midwife for manslaughter, but he couldn’t because there are no laws in Alabama that protect unborn babies.

&uot;That just infuriated me. I thought, ‘What could be done about it?’&uot; Sample said.

In another case in Alabaster, a pregnant woman aborted her fetus by repeatedly throwing herself over a chair.

Again, Sample said he could not arrest the lady for harming her baby.

&uot;That’s a child,&uot; Sample said. &uot;We’ve got to do something.&uot;

At first, Sample said he ran into people who were surprised that no such law existed in Alabama.

Although at least 30 other states in the U.S. already have such legislation protecting fetuses, Alabama does not.

Sample points to the Laci Peterson case in California, which does have laws protecting fetuses.

In Alabama, Scott Peterson could not have been charged with murdering the unborn baby, as he was in California.

Also, Sample got feedback from people who thought he was pushing an abortion bill. Sample insists that he’s not.

&uot;We’re not abortion activists,&uot; Sample said. &uot;We just want to add to existing laws.&uot;

According to Sample, the state already has laws on the books that determine when a fetus is considered viable.

Under state law, a fetus is viable at 19 weeks of gestation and cannot be aborted after that time.

Sample is working with state Rep. Cam Ward who plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session