updated 6/15/2009 7:54:12 PM ET 2009-06-15T23:54:12

In the wake of an attack on a woman who died along with her unborn child, a state lawmaker wants Oregon to join 36 states and the federal government in making it a crime to harm a fetus.

Republican Sen. Bruce Starr said Tuesday he is drafting a bill that would create a crime of assault on an unborn child and expand criminal homicide to include the death of an unborn child.

On Friday, Heather Snively was found dead in the crawl space of a home, and her fetus had been cut from her womb. A woman has been charged with murder in Snively's death.

Under Oregon law, an infant must have drawn a breath to meet the legal threshold for murder charges to be brought. The district attorney is reviewing autopsy results on the infant in last week's attack to determine whether he was born alive.

"I believe that in the eyes of Oregonians, the killer of Heather Snively deserves to be tried not just for the death of Heather, but for the death of her son," Starr said in a statement. "New life deserves all the protection the law will provide."

Abortion rights have claimed fetal homicide laws are often a backdoor way to determine that life legally begins at conception and can pit a mother's rights against those of her unborn child.

On the federal level, President Bush signed a law in 2004 making it illegal to harm a fetus during an assault on the mother during the commission of a federal crime.

The federal law resulted from the outcry over the death of Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed in 2002 in California. Her fetus did not survive.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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