Force Miscarriages and Earn Aggravated Murder Charges?


Video from a press conference on the crazy Cleveland kidnapping story. For purposes of this post you only need to watch the county prosecutor’s short remarks at the beginning. I highlight one of them as my point of departure…

The ear-catching line:

“…each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies…”

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Thomas McGinty, intends to pursue charges against Ariel Castro for each and every criminal action that evidence can show Castro may have committed over the ten years he held three women captive in Cleveland. The charges could number in the thousands, based on evidence and testimony

That includes multiple charges for felonious assault, rape, perhaps a separate kidnapping charge for each day of their captivity, and a whole host of things. But the most remarkable possible charge, given the way our laws handle such things, is the “aggravated murder” charge for starving and beating the women until they miscarried when he got them pregnant.

Notice the language of the alleged offense: “terminating pregnancies.” He didn’t say, “killing children,” or “aborting fetuses,” or anything that recognizes the humanity of the child in utero, but he still believes aggravated murder charges are a possibility.

Charges should certainly be pursued for the starvation and the assault that caused the miscarriages, but aggravated murder charges should only apply if the human entity killed had his or her own personal right to life. We don’t know the exact gestational age of the fetuses at the time of miscarriage, but if the fetus who was killed in the miscarriage could just as legally be aborted as carried to term, why pursue charges for murder? Mothers can unilaterally choose to “terminate the pregnancy,” why can’t fathers? Granted, fathers cannot starve and beat the woman they impregnated, but again, starving and beating someone don’t reach the level of “aggravated murder” unless someone died in the process.

FYI: I'm a child, not a choice.

FYI: I’m a child, not a choice.

I’m sure I don’t need to clarify this, but I agree that intentionally killing an unborn child should be considered murder. My commentary here is on the irony and inconsistency built into our laws regarding unborn human life: if the child is wanted causing its death can result in criminal charges, as in a drunk driver who kills a pregnant woman being charged with two counts of homicide, but if the child is not wanted it can be offed in any number of horrific ways with the government’s blessing.

And then we have this case. It is not clear if the mother wanted the child once she realized she was pregnant by a rapist, and the child clearly was not wanted by the rapist father. Perhaps the mother would have aborted the child had she been raped but was free to pursue an abortion—an option obviously unavailable to her here.

Either way, the only way logically to pursue aggravated murder charges for “terminating pregnancies” in this case is if the child in utero is acknowledged by law to have its own inherent right to life. I’m in favor of the law recognizing this fact, but our present laws are so confused on this foundational question.

The aggravated murder charge ought to be pursued for the same reason abortion ought not be legal in any case: because the law recognizes the inherent right to life of all human persons from the moment of conception, not because someone—whether the mother or a county prosecutor—who had the good fortune to escape the womb alive “chose.”

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Tom Crowe is a cradle Catholic with a deep love for and commitment to Holy Mother the Church, colored by a rather interesting life-long relationship with her. Born during the great liturgical upheaval of the 1970s, Crowe was brought up in a parish that continued using the Missal of 1962—the Traditional Latin Mass—for which he developed a love. Crowe learned the faith as a child from the Baltimore Catechism, and didn’t stop learning and wrestling with the Church’s teachings at his Confirmation. Through reading and many conversations with friends and converts far smarter than he, Crowe came to know, accept, and love the Church and what she proposes far more intimately. For three years these conversation took place in seminary before Crowe, with the blessing of the formation team, determined that seminary was not right for him. In the wild and humorous ways of God, Crowe landed on his feet in Steubenville, Ohio, where he manages the online presence for Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he also trains altar servers and is the head master of ceremonies for the Mass in the Extraordinary Form on campus.

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