RALEIGH, North Carolina, April 21, 2011 ( – Overwhelming majorities in both chambers of North Carolina’s legislature have passed a bill that would make it a separate crime to kill or harm an unborn child as a result of a violent attack on the mother.

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass HB 215, the state’s new “Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” by a 77-40 majority. The Senate had also passed the bill by an impressive 45 in favor, four against.

The bill now heads to the desk of Democrat Gov. Beverly Perdue. Having been passed by veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers, the bill will become law ultimately with or without Perdue’s approval.

The measure, also known as “Ethen’s Law,” recognizes a victim-mother’s unborn child as a separate victim whose life begins at conception.

The law says that attackers of pregnant women can be charged by prosecutors with manslaughter, assault, and battery on unborn children in addition to murder. That the attacker did not know his victim was pregnant, or did not intend to kill or harm her unborn child, is no defense under the law.

The law is named for Jenna Nielsen’s unborn son. Nielsen, newspaper carrier and mother of two, was eight and a half months pregnant with Ethen when she was stabbed to death June 14, 2007 outside a Raleigh convenience store where she was restocking USA Today papers.

The 22-year-old Nielsen had taken the newspaper job to supplement her husband’s income. Despite police saying the case was “very solvable.” no arrests to date have been made.

The family maintains a site called

A provision in HB 215 stresses that the measure in Ethen’s law does not apply to legal abortion.

North Carolina will join 35 other states and the federal government in recognizing unborn children as separate victims in crimes perpetrated against their mothers.