June 10, 2020

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Deliberately Harming an Unborn Child is not Child Abuse

Photo Credit: Melissa Jonas / Flickr
The Colorado Supreme Court ordered a retrial of a case involving a man convicted of shooting his pregnant wife partially because one of the counts he was found guilty of was child abuse.

A man named Andre Jones shot his estranged pregnant wife in the stomach seven years ago causing her death. His then-unborn daughter managed to survive the incident, but she was born with severe neurological damage. She suffered vision and hearing loss, and she is unable to breathe or swallow on her own. Jones was convicted of first-degree murder, unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. Jones's lawyers argued that his daughter was not a person at the time of the crime, so child abuse could not occur. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed, so when they ordered a retrial they did so without the child abuse charge.

In the majority opinion, the justices said, "The child abuse statute defines ‘child’ as ‘a person under the age of sixteen years.’ The statute does not define ‘person.’ […] We cannot infer from this definition, however, that the child abuse statute similarly applies only to harm caused to those who are already born at the time of the injurious conduct."

University of Colorado Boulder law professor Aya Gruber had this to say,

“It’s kind of wild that they’re saying, ‘It’s not clear to us on the face of it that the word ‘person’ doesn’t really mean ‘person or fetus.’ In other words, they’re saying it is completely plausible [for a] facial meaning of the word ‘person’ to include ‘fetus.’ That part of it all seems like a pretty big blow to the anti-personhood [movement] and maybe a symbolic victory for the personhood movement.”

Pro-life advocates say this may prompt some Colorado legislators to push to include unborn children in a definition of personhood.