John Faso: Beyond The Reproductive Health Act

Feb 19, 2019

“He’s got a knife! He’s going to kill the baby!” Those are the words spoken by Jennifer Irigoyen, a 35-year old Queens real estate agent who was killed in the vestibule of her apartment building in the early morning hours of February 3rd.

Witnesses reported that the victim was dragged down stairs from her third floor apartment and that she was “yelling about wanting to protect her baby”.    

Queens DA Richard Brown, said: “A woman was brutally stabbed – killing her and her unborn child. The Defendant is alleged to have shown no mercy and no regard for human life when he repeatedly and purposely plunged a knife into this expectant mothers abdomen, torso and neck”.  The mother was reportedly five months pregnant at the time of the killing. 

Irigoyen’s boyfriend, Anthony Hobson, was indicted last week and charged with her murder. 

Initially, the DA also charged Hobson with the crime of second degree abortion, for killing the unborn child.   

However, the latter charge was dropped after the DA’s office realized that the crime of intentionally killing the unborn was repealed less than two weeks earlier by the state Legislature and Governor Cuomo in the so-called “Reproductive Health Act”.

The Senate sponsor of the legislation said that the criminal penalties for killing the unborn child didn’t really matter as the murder of the mother would carry a higher penalty anyway.

Really?

Prosecutors routinely will file multiple charges against defendants when they are charged with multiple crimes, often having different standards of proof.  If a defendant is charged with murdering one person, while also assaulting another person in the same incident, it goes without question that multiple charges will be filed even though the charges, if proved, carry different penalties.

Additional penalties for criminal acts are frequently included in the New York penal law.  That is why added penalties may attach to hate crimes or crimes against the elderly.

The sponsors of the abortion legislation repealed the penalty for abortion in the second degree because they wanted to eliminate any remote possibility that our law could assign any qualities of “personhood” to an unborn child. One suspects they simply couldn’t tolerate references in the definition of homicide which specifically protected the “unborn child”.

Advocates of the new abortion law argued that its passage was necessary in case the US Supreme Court were to overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. However, since New York’s law predated Roe, the primary right to an abortion wouldn’t be affected by overturning Roe.

New York’s law allowed third trimester abortions only to protect the life of the mother and the only impact in this state of the Roe decision was to add language concerning the health of the mother.  Legislators could have added language regarding the health of the mother without also removing the protections in the case of the intentional killing of the unborn child, as was the case in the Queens case.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 300,000 women experience domestic violence during pregnancy each year. Such violence increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight babies, and injury or death to the unborn child. Regardless of one’s position on abortion, shouldn’t we all agree that legal protections against intentional killing of an unborn child are warranted?

Jennifer Irigoyen knew what her attacker was doing when she cried out “he’s got a knife.  He’s going to kill the baby”.  Too bad Governor Cuomo and those who voted for this legislation didn’t believe that Jennifer’s baby deserved any protection or recognition under the law.

Former Representative John Faso of Kinderhook represented New York's 19th House district in the 115th Congress.

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