Massachusetts: Unexpected Prosecution in Death of Unborn Child

Unfortunately, Massachusetts in one of only twelve states in the entire country that does not have a fetal homicide law. Therefore, it was unexpected when the death of an unborn child led to a charge of manslaughter last year.

The Boston Herald reports that Ayanna Woodhouse was charged with, and eventually pled guilty to, assaulting a pregnant woman and manslaughter for causing the death of the woman’s six month old unborn child. The attack took place in April 2010, after which the mother was hospitalized and delivered the stillborn child.

Even without a fetal homicide law, prosecutors were able to charge Woodhouse with manslaughter due to the precedent of charging people with such when the fetus was determined, by medical professionals, to be viable. When medical officials determined that the child would have been able to live outside the womb if the injuries had not been inflicted by Woodhouse, the offender decided to plead guilty to all charges.

In the end, Judge Carol Ball “sentenced Woodhouse to two years in a house of correction, followed by three years of probation.” Hopefully, this tragic event will convince Massachusetts’ elected officials to take swift action on passing a much needed fetal homicide bill!

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