WASHINGTON, D.C., March 14, 2011 ( – Lawmakers in the New Mexico state House of Representatives approved a measure that gives limited protection to unborn victims of violence when their mothers are the subjects of a crime. The measure, known locally as the “Little Isaac” Act, was a legislative response to a mother’s brutal murder in 2009, and was opposed chiefly by Planned Parenthood.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports HB 30 would allow charges for murder, manslaughter, and injury against an unborn child, but with one qualification: the unborn victim’s gestational age must be 20 weeks or more.

Lawmakers advanced the measure in response to the brutal Santa Fe murder of Sarah Lovato, a quiet 17-year-old girl who was eight-months pregnant with her unborn son “Isaac” and looking forward to motherhood. Lovato’s murderer, Marino Leyba Jr., was her boyfriend and the father of her unborn son.

According to police, Leyba first shot and killed Lovato’s disabled father, Bennie Ray Lovato, Sr., 50, before shooting Lovato three times, firing the first shot into her belly to kill her unborn child.

The New Mexican reported in June 2009 that police investigators believed Lebya was motivated to kill Lovato by her decision to continue carrying their child. The family reported the couple had a history of domestic violence and had broken up at least two weeks before. Lovato was murdered the same day she had posted proudly on her MySpace page a sonogram picture of her baby with the caption “My baby boy.”

Leyba is currently serving life in prison. However, his murders exposed to the public that state law left prosecutors without the tools to charge and convict a killer for taking the life of an unborn baby.

The unborn victims of violence bill was approved by the House Thursday in a 63-5 vote, and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

“It has brought comfort to the Lovato family because they were there every time to assure that little Isaac did not die in vain,” Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, the bill’s main sponsor, told his colleagues, his voice choking with emotion.

The New Mexican reports the chief organization opposing the bill was Planned Parenthood, which alleged the bill was a covert stepping stone to banning abortion. Diane Wood, a Planned Parenthood lobbyist, said that it was “unfortunate” that GOP lawmakers decided to “use this horrible tragedy to further their extreme agenda.”

But Rep.Larranaga called Wood’s description “a red herring,” citing the fact that the bill specifically excludes legal abortions from its scope, and that 30 states have unborn victims of violence laws on the books.