Poll: 62% of Marylanders support fetal homicide law

Howard County teacher Laura Wallen was just 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her murder last September, and, because of that, prosecutors were unable to charge her boyfriend with an additional count of murder.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) - As Maryland legislators consider a bill which would revised the state's fetal homicide law, supporters say a new public opinion poll may bolster their efforts.

A Mason-Dixon poll, commissioned by the Maryland Catholic Conference, shows 62 percent of those surveyed favor a bill which would allow prosecutors to charge someone with the murder of an unborn child regardless of the age of the fetus.

The telephone poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy, surveyed 625 registered Maryland voters between February 20 and February 22.

The poll shows 26 percent of those surveyed oppose the bill, while 12 percent were undecided.

The bill was prompted by last year's murder of a pregnant Howard County teacher.

Laura Wallen was shot and killed last September, and police charged her boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, with murder.

Wallen was just 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, and, because of that, prosecutors were unable to charge Tessier with an additional count of murder.

Laura's parents, Mark and Gwen Wallen, have lobbied state legislators this winter urging them to enact the bill.

Jennifer L. Briemann, Deputy Director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said: "I don't think we're surprised by the [poll] results at all. The proposed legislation is very much a common sense bill; I think there is broad support for it."

Briemann added: "Homicide is the leading case of pregnancy associated [with the] death of women in the State of Maryland, and our rate here in Maryland is ten times the national average, so it is an issue that needs to be looked at very carefully."

But Planned Parenthood of Maryland opposes the revised fetal homicide bill.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood said: "It is a tragedy anytime a pregnant woman loses a pregnancy due to the criminal actions of another, and our legal system already punishes that person for their crimes... Unfortunately, legislation that changes current law to create a separate crime for the death of a fetus will not protect women or prevent these crimes from occurring."

Public hearings on the bill took place last month, but neither committee has taken a vote on the legislation.

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