Can a Fetus Like Laci's Sue?

"Right now, we don't know what the prosecution has or how the baby was separated from the mother," said Weber. "The way the bodies were found, it is possible that Conner was born alive and then died. Autopsy results could show whether or not he took a breath. We just don't know."

Fueling Political Momentum

State fetus protection laws in both criminal and civil cases do not restrict women's right to abortions. However, abortion rights supporters perceive them as an attempt by opponents to undermine the philosophy of Roe vs. Wade by recognizing a fetus as a human being under law, and as an initial step toward taking away the right to abortion.

"We've been seeing and continue to see legal conflicts between pro-life groups and feminist, pro-choice groups who are concerned with the entire question of how will this affect a woman's ability to have an abortion, will it make it more difficult, will it make it easier," said Jean Reith Schroedel, professor of Politics and Policy at Claremont Graduate University in a past interview.

"The irony of this situation to me is that if we are so concerned with fetal health and well-being, there are ways to protect pregnant women and fetuses without getting into the debate over what is a human life or when is a fetus considered a human life," she said.

And Laci Peterson's family's support of the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act seems to have thrown some political momentum toward abortion opposition groups who have pushed for the bill's passage.

"Pro-abortion groups like NARAL continue to heartlessly insist that crimes like the murder of Laci and Conner have only one victim," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. "The pro-abortion advocacy groups have blocked enactment of unborn victims laws in many states. They have also blocked the federal unborn victims bill, insisting on a competing 'one-victim' proposal that in effect would tell a grieving, surviving mother that she didn't really lose a baby — that nobody really died in the crime."

Pawns for Political Agendas

Abortion rights groups accuse their opponents of exploiting Laci Peterson's family to further their own agenda.

"It is a sad statement that anti-choice leaders are willing to use a family's tragedy to continue their campaign to steadily take away a woman's right to choose," said Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. "The only thing new about this bill is the lengths to which anti-choice lawmakers and advocates are willing to go to exploit a family's pain in order to move their own political agenda.

"Anti-choice lawmakers aren't interested in solving the problems — they are only interested in pushing their political agenda," Michelman continued. "Bipartisan legislation to protect pregnant women has repeatedly been offered but anti-choice leaders will not pass it."

Abortion rights advocates favor measure that would increase penalties for crimes against women, which would include pregnant ones.

Until Wednesday, perhaps because the heinous nature of the slayings, abortion rights groups had been relatively hesitant to comment specifically on the Laci Peterson case.

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