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One Radical Opinion

by "Radical" Russ Belville
Wednesday, November 17, 2004

"Radical" Russ Belville was born on the first day of the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War in the town of Nampa in the "red" state of Idaho, where any opinion to the left of Reagan gets you labeled as "radical". He currently resides in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon (a.k.a. "Little Beirut") where he works in Information Technology. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about current events, playing the six-string bass guitar, and volunteering for liberal political causes. You can contact him via e-mail at letters 'at'

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This week Scott Peterson was found guilty in the first-degree murder of his pregnant wife and the second-degree murder of her fetus. The crime also merited "special circumstance" status – he killed another person (the fetus) during the commission of a premeditated felony (his wife) – which makes him eligible for the death penalty.

This is the latest salvo in the battle by anti-woman – whoops; I meant "pro-life" – forces in their attempt to repeal a woman's Constitutional right to control her own body, health care decisions, and reproductive future.

(Let me first say that I feel bad for the families and victim, but care little about relentless media hype around the Peterson case. Pregnant women have been killed by their husbands before, and some of them weren't even attractive or white. Peddling this ghoulish voyeurism as "news" is insulting when war rages in Iraq and voting shenanigans abound in America -- insulting to a family suffering unspeakable grief and a television movie about it, insulting to a world with families suffering losses in Fallujah, insulting to our democracy fighting for a free Iraqi election when we can't honestly manage our own.)

First-degree murder is an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated. That Peterson consciously planned to kill his wife is not in doubt. Second-degree murder is an intentional killing that is not premeditated. So then, are we to assume that the death of Laci's fetus was an unforeseeable consequence of Laci's murder? Look, if you plan to kill your pregnant wife, you can bet the fetus will die, too. A first-degree conviction on both counts or a second-degree conviction on both counts would at least be logically consistent.

Nevertheless, the fact that there was a second murder charge at all belies the real agenda, which is to ascribe to fetuses the rights given to living breathing human beings. For if Scott Peterson is guilty of murder, it is only a short jump to convicting abortion doctors of murder.

Of course, that's the goal, isn't it? The "pro-life" lobby cannot get past the fallacy that fetuses are babies. This Peterson case has distorted the emotional issue of the death of a pregnant woman to create two murder charges, leading the country toward the idea that fetuses are people, too. What was the jury to do? They couldn't find Peterson innocent of killing that fetus if they found him guilty of killing the mother.

I completely support the first-degree murder conviction and terminating a woman's pregnancy against her will should be a "special circumstance" that increases the punishment for her murder. However, creating a second crime out of the death of her fetus does nothing to serve the cause of justice and everything to serve the cause of anti-woman politics. The second conviction isn't going to make Scott's death penalty any deadlier or his life imprisonment any longer, but it does lead us down a slippery slope where we begin to define fetuses as people and women as breeders for the state.