On June 6, 2005, 19-year-old Gerardo Flores was found guilty on two counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison by the Angelina County Court in Lufkin, Texas for helping his girlfriend end her pregnancy.1 In 2004, Flores' girlfriend, 16-year-old Erica Basoria, found out she was pregnant with twins. Initially opposed to abortion, according to her medical record, Basoria asked her doctor about termination at four months and was told it was too late. It was then that she stopped taking prenatal vitamins and began jogging with intentions of ending her pregnancy.2 At five months she asked her boyfriend to step on her stomach as she hit herself causing her to miscarry.
The Prenatal Protection Act, which became law in Texas in 2003, defines an "individual" as "an unborn child at every state of gestation from fertilization until birth,"3 and allows "criminal prosecution or civil action for a preventable injury or death of a fetus."4 Basoria cannot be prosecuted because the law does not extend culpability to the pregnant woman or any source of legal medical care she may receive. Flores, however, is treated as a stranger under the statute and can be prosecuted as if he had randomly attacked Basoria. Twenty states have similar laws recognizing a fetus at any stage of development as a victim under homicide laws.5
The ACLU has expressed "serious reservations about legislation designed to protect fetuses, because it can endanger women's rights by reinforcing claims of 'fetal rights' in the law."6 Legislation that grants full rights to fetuses is in tension with Roe v. Wade, which says that for the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment a fetus is not a person. Such legislation provides a foundation for opponents of choice to argue for continued restrictions on abortion.7
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice describes Flores and Basoria's situation as "a devastating lesson about what can happen when states ban reproductive health services and sex education."8
Defense attorney Ryan Deaton has stated that the case will be appealed. It is possible that the appeal will be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.9
- Ashley Cook, "Teen guilty of fetal murder," The Lufkin Daily News, 07 June 2005, accessed 9 June 2005.
- Pam Easton, "Man convicted for causing miscarriage taunted girlfriend," The Daily Sentinel, 18 June 2003, accessed 29 June 2005.
- S.B. 319, 78th Reg. Sess. (Tex. 2003).
- Associated Press, "Man Gets Life Under Fetal Protection Law," The Washington Post, 6 June 2005, accessed 9 June 2005.
- State Homicide Laws That Recognize Unborn Victims, National Right to Life Committee (8 June 2005), accessed 10 June 2005.
- What's Wrong with Fetal Rights, American Civil Liberties Union (31 July 1996), accessed 9 June 2005.
- Understanding Religious and Political Opposition to Reproductive Health and Rights, (New York: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US, and International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, 2004), accessed 9 June 2005.
- "Tragedy in Texas," Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice News & Perspectives, 10 June 2005, accessed 11 June 2005.