A man accused of pointing a handgun at his pregnant girlfriend and forcing her to drive to an abortion clinic has been charged with attempted murder under an Ohio law prohibiting the unlawful termination of a pregnancy, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Dominic L. Holt-Reid was arrested Oct. 6 as he waited for his girlfriend in the clinic's parking lot.
He pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday. A public defender was appointed for the 27-year-old Holt-Reid, who was briefly represented at Wednesday's hearing by an on-duty public defense attorney who could not comment
Columbus police initially charged him with kidnapping and carrying a concealed weapon. A six-count Franklin County grand jury indictment returned Friday added other kidnapping and weapons counts, along with the attempted murder charge.
County prosecutor Ron O'Brien said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the attempted murder count was filed because Holt-Reid tried "at gunpoint to force her to have an abortion against her will."
Ohio's "murder statute was amended a few years back to prohibit 'unlawful termination of a pregnancy' in order to avoid the debate whether an unborn fetus is a 'person' under the law," O'Brien wrote in the e-mail, which was first reported by The Columbus Dispatch. O'Brien said the statute has allowed him to win convictions on two counts in murder cases in which the victim was pregnant.
Police said Holt-Reid had become angry with Yolanda Burgess, 27, on the day of his arrest because she refused to go through with an abortion scheduled for earlier that day at a women's clinic. After the two of them dropped their 5-year-old child off at school, Holt-Reid took a loaded .45-caliber handgun out of the glove compartment of Burgess' car, aimed it at her, threatened her and forced her to drive to the clinic, police said.
Once there, Burgess was able to slip a note to an employee, who notified police. She was unharmed.
It was unclear Wednesday whether Burgess was still pregnant or, if so, how far along she was. A woman answering the phone at a listing for Yolanda Burgess said it was a wrong number.
At least 38 states including Ohio have so-called fetal homicide laws increasing penalties for crimes against pregnant women, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The laws focus on the harm done to a pregnant woman and not on the rights of the fetus, according to the group.