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8-Month-Old Fetus Brings Sutherland Springs Death Count to 26


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The 8-month-old fetus of Sutherland Springs shooting victim Crystal Holcombe has been included in the victim death toll, bringing the total up to 26 dead.

That's because of a 2003 Texas law, which prohibits intentionally causing the death of an individual — where the definition of "individual" can include “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.” If gunman Devin Kelley didn't die in the Sunday shooting, he would have been charged with the death of the fetus, along with the deaths of the 25 other victims.

While a few other states have similar so-called "feticide" laws, the rule has become particularly contentious in Texas, where the state legislature is regularly focused on the well-being of fetuses. Abortion advocates see the law as a roundabout way to eventually criminalize abortion doctors and women who have an abortion. However, anti-abortion lawmakers have tried to use the law to prosecute women who have a miscarriage if they used drugs or drank alcohol while pregnant.

At the same time, advocates for domestic violence victims argue feticide laws will punish someone who kills their pregnant partner to the full extent.

While the increased body count will have little legal sway now that Kelley is dead, this tiny addition will surely come up in future battles over state abortion laws.

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