Legislation to strengthen penalties for assaulting a pregnant woman has cleared its first hurdle in the State Senate. Sen. Debbe Leftwich is Senate author of House Bill 1897, which was approved Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary.
Domestic violence is the number one cause of death for pregnant women. Oklahoma needs to do more to address such violence before it results in the death of a woman and her baby, said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City.
Leftwich said recent headlines underscored that grim statistic. Eric Kennedy Phan is awaiting trial in the murder of 20-year-old Lauren Barnes and her unborn baby. Last November, Phan talked Barnes into meeting her at a Bethany Park after she had told his girlfriend he was the father of her unborn child.
Lauren had told her little sister she was scared he would blow up, Leftwich said. The last her sister ever heard from her was a text message that said Oh God, I think he just pulled up. Laurens body was found a week later in a shallow grave.
The measure, authored by Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, in the House, would allow felony charges to be filed against a person who assaults a woman and causes her to miscarry. Under the legislation known as the Scum of the Earth Bill, a person convicted of beating a woman the attacker knew was pregnant could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail. A person convicted of a second or subsequent offense would be guilty of a felony and face up to ten years in prison. If the attack resulted in a miscarriage or injury to the unborn child, it would be a felony with a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
More than 3,000 pregnant women in our state are attacked every single yearusually by the father of the baby. While state law does allow us to file double murder charges for killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child, we ought to be doing more to get that abuser behind bars before it gets to that point, Leftwich aid.
House Bill 1897 now moves to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.