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Dead or Alive?

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Murder, in any shape or form, is evil and morally wrong. But the calculated, cold-blooded murder of an innocent child is an abomination which God hates (Proverb 6:16-17). In the state of Virginia, legislators have deemed that capital punishment is in effect for anyone who commits the heinous act of murdering a child under the age of twelve. Additionally, on July 1, 2004 they passed a law that states: “Any person who unlawfully, willfully, deliberately, maliciously and with premeditation kills the fetus of another is guilty of a Class 2 felony” and may be imprisoned for not less than 5 nor more than 40 years (see Killing Fetus..., 2004). Virginia law also notes that any person who does so without premeditation may be imprisoned for not less than five, nor more than 40 years. The law also indicates that if any person illegally produces an abortion that person is guilty of a Class 4 felony which carries a maximum penalty of ten years (see Producing Abortion..., 1950).

So what about a mother who decides to shoot her unborn child the day it is scheduled to be delivered into the world? That’s right—a mother shot herself to kill her baby. Thursday, February 24, 2006 was supposed to be Kysharia Skinner’s birthday. However, this full-term baby never saw the light of day, as her life was prematurely snuffed out when her mom pulled into the parking lot of a local car dealer and shot herself in the stomach (McNatt, 2006a). Since Tammy Skinner technically did not “kill the fetus of another,” she gets to walk free.

Initially, Skinner was charged with illegally inducing an abortion (a Class 4 felony that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years). However, General District Court Judge James A. Moore decided that Skinner can’t be tried for causing a miscarriage or abortion, and therefore he threw the case out (McNatt, 2006b). As McNatt noted, “Skinner’s attorney argued at a preliminary hearing that the charge is meant to be used against a third party and that the same offense with similar wording has been tested in courts in both Florida and Georgia and failed. It simply does not govern an expectant mother doing something to herself” (McNatt, 2006b). Talk about a foolish legal loophole.

Now consider the irony. If someone else had illegally caused an abortion they would be serving up to ten years in jail. If someone had killed her child in the womb they would be facing five to forty years in prison. And if they had waited twelve hours until the baby was born and then killed it they would be looking at the death penalty. But because a mom decided to shoot herself in the stomach, Kysharia paid with her life—and her mother walks free. At what point will our laws be consistent in the definition and recognition of life?


Killing a Fetus; Penalty §18.2-32.2 (2004), Code of Virginia, [On-line], URL:

McNatt, Linda (2006a), “Full-Term pregnant Woman Shot, Loses Baby,” The Virginian-Pilot, [On-line], URL:

McNatt, Linda (2006b), “Abortion Charge Dismissed Against Pregnant Woman Who Shot Herself,” The Virginian-Pilot, [On-line], URL:

Producing Abortion or Miscarriage, etc.; Penalty § 18.2-71 (1950), Code of Virginia, [On-line], URL:

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