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Justice for Haley
June 7, 2001

Last night we got a call here at The Cause from an uncle devastated by two deaths - though Kentucky law may recognize only one.

His niece's name was Veronica Jane Thornsbury, and on the Sunday when she should have celebrated her baby's first day of life, Janie's own life ended. March 25 began normally enough in Kimper, a sleepy Kentucky mining town tucked in the Appalachians. Janie's water broke that morning, and by early afternoon, she and husband Troy headed for the hospital in Pikeville. The newly decorated nursery was ready, two-year-old Benjamin had his big brother role down, and Janie and Troy had settled on their favorite name - Haley Natosha. Both were anxious, elated, ready to meet their daughter. But then in a split-second, the sky came crashing down.

Just four miles from the hospital, while Troy waited to turn left, 29-year-old Charles Morris - who would later test positive for seven different prescription drugs and marijuana - ran his Dodge Dakota through a red light. Morris was going over 80 mph when his pickup plowed into Janie's passenger door. She died instantly. Her daughter - delivered by Caesarian at the scene - was also pronounced dead from blunt force trauma.

Later that night, nurses at Pikesville Methodist Hospital brought Haley to Troy, swaddled in a pink blanket. She looked like Ben, this daughter he and Janie had prayed for. Tiny fingers clasped tight, feathery lashes against rosy cheeks, 7 pounds, 5 ounces of perfection. Days later he buried his girls together.

The perpetrator, Charles Morris, was charged with two counts of murder and denied bail. But his lawyers are now arguing that the second count should be dropped because under a 1983 ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court, an unborn child is not considered a person. On June 15, a circuit judge will decide whether both capital murder charges stand, or if one will be reduced to assault.

Last month, by a vote of 252 to 172, the House passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which states that if an attack on a pregnant woman harms her unborn child, the perpetrator will be held responsible for injury or death to both. The federal legislation, which is now stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would mirror the laws of 24 states that recognize unborn children as victims of violent crimes.

The bill explicitly states that its language "shall not be construed to permit prosecution for conduct relating to an abortion," but the shrill reaction of abortion advocates belies the disclaimer. For them, the impersonality of the unborn is an article of faith, and the slightest move to recognize personhood presents a threat. Were they consistent, pro-choicers would demand fierce judgment for the man who took away Janie's choice to bear a healthy daughter and return home to her husband and son. Instead, they are left with the bankrupt claim that because she was killed mere minutes from birth, Haley Natosha is a nonentity - an argument the father who held her will never believe and any fair-minded judge must reject.


Haley Natosha Thornsbury, March 25, 2001

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