Pregnant Md. teacher’s killing prompts new bill around fetal homicide

WASHINGTON — A proposed bill aims to change how the homicide of a fetus can be prosecuted in Maryland. The bill is based on the case of pregnant Howard County teacher Laura Wallen, who was killed last September.

Mark Wallen spoke candidly about the death of his daughter Laura, who was 14-weeks pregnant when she was killed around five months ago. Her boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, is charged with one murder because the child was not considered viable under current Maryland law.

“This bill makes it murder or manslaughter when a person intends to cause the death of a fetus,” Wallen said.

It also includes the intent to cause physical harm or if the perpetrator has a wanton disregard for the likelihood their actions could harm or kill a fetus.

The law does not infringe upon a woman’s right to have an abortion, said state Sen. Justin Ready, R-Carroll County, who is sponsoring the bill.

He said 38 other states have fetal homicide laws and the language of his bill is based in part off those laws.

“Senate Bill 533 would change this law to ensure violent criminals would be held criminally responsible for the murder of a developing child in addition to mother,” Ready said to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But Joanna Diamond, representing the ACLU of Maryland, said, “Separating a woman from her pregnancy is dangerous.” She was one of many groups to provide testimony opposing the bill.

“Granting legal rights that are distinct from the woman really goes down a road of reproductive rights and privacy rights,” she said.

Tessier’s murder trial is set for April.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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