Wallen Slaying Inspires Legislation in Annapolis

Laura Wallen | MCPD

The killing of a pregnant Olney teacher has inspired General Assembly legislation that would make the death of the unborn child a crime.

Laura Wallen was four months’ pregnant at the time of the slaying in September. Her boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, has been indicted in her death, but not in the death of Tessier’s unborn son whom Wallen was carrying. She had named the child Reid.

Current state law says an unborn baby must be viable, or 24 weeks old, for its death to be considered a crime. Therefore, Sen. Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican, has introduced a bill that would allow prosecutors to pursue murder or manslaughter charges for any unborn child.

“This young woman had given the baby a name. To her it’s a life, a life she valued and wanted to carry to term,” Ready said. But had Wallen survived the attack and the baby didn’t, prosecutors could not charge Tessier with the baby’s death, Ready said.

The bill, which Ready has named “Laura and Reid’s Law,” focuses on individuals whose intent is to kill because of the pregnancy, and tries to avoid any discussion of abortion.

“I think there’s a way to have this discussion without bringing in all the D.C. politics,” he said.

The Wallen family helped draft the bill, Ready said.

Maryland is only one of 12 states that do not have similar provisions on the books, he said. Ready noted states like California and North Carolina also have similar provisions.

Ready said his office’s research had learned that the leading cause of maternal death in Maryland for the last several years is homicide. “The General Assembly is poised to provide final approval to a measure that would terminate a rapist’s parental rights to a child fathered by a sexual assault.

“Basically in this current time, we’re much more aware of how women have been mistreated,” Ready said. “I think it all does speak to how we treat women and vulnerable people in our society. What kind of society do we want to have?”

Basic information about the bill appears here. The bill’s text appears here (the same page eventually will have a nonpartisan analysis of the legislation). The bill’s progress will appear here.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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