Texas appellate court defines unborn child as "person"

A Texas appellate court has upheld its ruling that affirms the personhood of an unborn child who was murdered along with its mother, reports Kathleen Gilbert,

Jacob Eguia, who was convicted of the capital murders of a woman and her nearly eight months gestation unborn child, challenged the court's ruling on several points. He argued that finding him guilty of the unborn child's death violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Art. I, Sec. 6 of the Texas Constitution, which bars giving preference by law to a religion.

In the Texas Penal Code, as the court noted, “‘Person’ means an individual," and "individual" may refer to “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth”; and “‘death’ includes, for an individual who is an unborn child, the failure to be born alive.”

According to the court's published opinion, Eguia complained that "the State’s definition of 'individual' 'has the effect of endorsing religion as it is based solely upon a religious belief that life begins at conception.'"

Justice Elsa Alcala concluded that, because a statute does not violate the Establishment Clause when serving a secular purpose, "the definition of 'individual' serves the State’s legitimate secular interest in protecting unborn children from the criminal acts of others."

The court also cited precedent to affirm that, "a statute is not automatically rendered unconstitutional simply because it advances ideals that harmonize with religious ideals."

In addition, Eguia argued that under such a statute abortion practitioners would also be guilty of murder, but the court noted that earlier legislation had already "narrowed the class of murderers who may be charged by specifically excluding 'conduct committed by the mother of an unborn child' and 'a lawful medical procedure performed by a physician ... with the requisite consent, if the death of the unborn child was the intended result of the procedure.'"


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