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Elkton woman’s tragedy inspires Caleb’s Law, now before the Va. General Assmebly

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 9:35 PM EST
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - After the loss of her unborn son in a car crash, a Valley mother is on a mission to get Virginia lawmakers to pass a new law.

In 2018, Taylor Shifflett of Elkton, said she was involved in a car crash off of Route 340. She said the vehicle that hit her was traveling more than 90 mph and was fleeing from police.

Shifflett was injured in the crash, was in a coma, and had to have multiple surgeries. She was also six months pregnant and because of the impact from the crash, her growing son, who she and her husband named Caleb Scott, did not survive.

”It was really life or death for me for several days,” Shifflett said. “I don’t care about what happened to me or the things that I had to go through. It’s the fact that my child was taken and not an ounce of justice was provided by the commonwealth. They failed him.”

Shifflett said the driver of the vehicle that hit her was not charged for Caleb’s death, which inspired Caleb’s Law, SB 122, SB 155, and HB744 sponsored by Valley politicians, including Del. Robert Bell, Senator Emmett Hanger, and Senator Mark Obenshain.

Caleb’s Law states: Killing the fetus of another; manslaughter; penalties. Provides that any person who kills the fetus of another by an intentional act committed while in the sudden heat of passion upon reasonable provocation is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, which is punishable as a Class 5 felony.

The bill also provides that any person who kills the fetus of another accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties and while engaged in conduct so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which is also punishable as a Class 5 felony.

After hearing about Shifflett’s story, Sen. Obenshain, also a practicing lawyer, said the noticed a “gap in Virginia’s law.”

“If both the mother and child had died, this defendant would have been facing two homicide charges,” Sen. Obenshain said. “As a result of just the child dying in this case, no homicide charge. That just doesn’t make sense.”

The bill was tabled in 2020 because Shifflett said Virginia Democrats worried Caleb’s Law violates women’s rights, but Shifflett disagrees.

”I made my choice and my choice was to bring that beautiful baby into the world and another individual made a choice and his choice eradicated mine,” Shifflett said. “That’s not fair and that’s not just.”

Sen. Obenshain and Shifflett are both more optimistic that Caleb’s Law will make more progress in the 2022 General Assembly session.

”This [bill] just makes sense. This ought to be one where we link arms across partisan aisles because it’s a problem. It’s an unintended gap,” Obenshain said. “It will never be able to write the wrong in respect to Caleb, but hopefully we’ll be able to close this loophole in the law that I believe was unintentionally left.”

Sen. Obenshain said Caleb’s Law will be back on the docket in the House and the Senate in the coming weeks.

If you support Caleb’s Law, Shifflett encourages people to contact their local legislators. You can find more information here.

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