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Michigan court rules that preborn children deserve legal protection

A Michigan appeals court has affirmed that preborn children deserve legal protection in cases of assault.

Allegan County Circuit Court Judge Kevin W. Cronin extended the sentence of a man who was convicted of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend because he recognized the preborn child as a second victim.

In May 2014, Samuel Demetrious Ambrose received a minimum of four years for punching his pregnant girlfriend, who was also disabled, and dumping her out of her wheelchair into a ditch, then holding her head underwater. Cronin handed down a sentence three months longer than the recommended guidelines of a crime of this nature. Appeals Court Judge Peter D. O’Connell wrote that Ambrose placed both mother and preborn child “in both danger of death and physical injury.’’

Ambrose was convicted on separate counts of felonious assault and witness tampering and was sentenced to serve his punishment for them consecutively rather than simultaneously, maximizing his time in jail. Michigan is one of 38 states that recognize preborn children as homicide victims. Twenty-three of those states extend that recognition to the beginning of pregnancy.

“I can’t remember when I’ve been so appalled at a defendant’s behavior of what – what cruelty, what total disregard for human life and decency there was in this particular incident,” Cronin said of the case. He also expressed disgust that, in addition to “trying to destroy” his girlfriend, Ambrose’s actions were “unspeakably, inhumanly belligerent and disrespectful to the child she was carrying, as well as to herself.’’

Ambrose appealed the sentence by objecting to recognition of the baby as a separate victim. This week, October 26, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected his appeal, affirming the preborn child’s protected status.

“We conclude the trial court did not err in counting the fetus as a ‘victim’ when fashioning a sentence,” the court determined, noting that the law expressly recognizes inducing a stillbirth or miscarriage as a felony.

Michigan Right to Life notes:

Michigan updated protections for unborn children by passing the Prenatal Protection Act in 1999. Previously the child had to be born alive and then die in order to be counted as a victim of a crime committed while the child was in the womb. The born-alive rule was necessary as a matter of evidence before the advent of ultrasound, because the only way to know a child in the womb was alive at any point (and harmed by the criminal action) was the mother reporting her experience of the baby moving. Thanks to modern medicine, documenting the life of the child in the womb is easy and undeniable.

Since 2004, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act has recognized preborn children as assault and homicide victims in crimes falling under federal jurisdiction.

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