WASHINGTON, November 30, 2011 ( – On December 1, North Carolina will become the 37th state to recognize the humanity of unborn victims of violent crimes.

The “Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” conventionally known as “Ethen’s Law,” will allow prosecutors to charge criminals who kill a pregnant woman with two murders: that of the mother and her unborn child.

The North Carolina law is named after the murdered unborn baby of 22-year-old Jenna Nielsen, who was stabbed to death in Raleigh in June 2007. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time.


The state’s Democratic governor, Beverly Perdue, signed the bill after it passed with a veto-proof majority in April.

At an emotional press conference on Wednesday, lawmakers and family members expressed their bittersweet gratitude. Effie Steele, the mother of Ebony Robinson, who was murdered while nine months pregnant, said her daughter’s murderer was not charged with the death of her grandson, Elijah, “even though he was in the casket with Ebony, and…he was a full-grown baby.”

Dale Folwell, the Speaker Pro Tempore of the state House of Representatives who championed the bill, said bluntly, “This law is about murderers and thugs, and how we’re going to treat them.” He added, “If this prevents one pregnant woman from being murdered, it will be successful.”

Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life, told she was happy that “no longer will a mother who has made a decision to carry that child be denied…the justice she deserves.”

The bill mirrors similar bills at the state and national level by specifically stating it does not apply to abortion. Despite this exemption, Holt said, “We think it’s important because it recognizes the humanity of the child.”

President George W. Bush signed the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act in 2004 after passing the Senate by a one-vote margin. However, it applies only to federal crimes.

Holt said victims’ families in her state had been “tenacious about coming back to the General Assembly every year asking for this bill to be passed,” because “a small minority” of legislators had killed the bill for more than two-decades.

Rep. Folwell noted, “This basically does in North Carolina what has been the law in California since Sharon Tate was murdered.”

Holt said the mainstream law “is very much accepted by the general public, and I think we’ll probably see other states passing similar laws.”

The bill marks the latest in a string of legislative victories for the state’s pro-life cause. In July, the legislature voted to override Governor Purdue’s veto of the Women’s Right to Know Act. The law requires abortion clinics to provide women with an ultrasound and establishes a 24-hour waiting period.

The ACLU is legally challenging the bill’s ultrasound requirement.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state’s “Choose Life” license plate on Monday.