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Hit & Run Sparks ‘Personhood’ Debate

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Laurie Gorham (credit: CBS)

Laurie Gorham (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) - A pregnant woman run down in a hit-and-run accident in the Stapleton area last week is improving after the baby she was carrying died. Laurie Gorham is now listed in fair condition at Denver Health Medical Center.

Gorham’s father told CBS4′s Rick Sallinger she is out of intensive care and off the ventilator.

The hit-and-run driver is nowhere to be found and even though a life was lost, the driver is unlikely to be charged with vehicular homicide. University of Denver law instructor and former Denver prosecutor Karen Steinhauser says that’s because of the way the law in Colorado is written.

“And the way ‘person’ is defined is essentially a child or a human being who was born alive at the time of the homicidal act,” Steinhauser said.

Gorham’s child was not born at the time of the incident and was later delivered still born.

Last November Colorado voters turned down a new definition of personhood that would have made it from the time of conception.

“Personhood would have given justice to this child. We lost the election but truth always gets the last word,” Bob Enyart with Colorado Right to Life said.

Enyart says Colorado Right to Life will use this case as an example when they try again in the legislature and through ballot initiatives.

The likely charges that would apply in this case are vehicular assault and hit-and-run, and the baby lost could be taken into account at sentencing.

“The court could consider the fact that she was pregnant at the time and lost the baby in terms of imposing a higher sentence on the vehicular assault or hit-and-run,” Steinhauser said.

When someone becomes a person has long been a matter of religious, political and legal debate.

There is a similar case from Grand Junction in which a driver slammed into a woman who then gave birth, but the child soon died. The driver was charged with murder, but the Court of Appeals overruled that. He finally got 20 years for child abuse resulting in death.

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