Legal Dictionary

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Fetus

A fetus is an unborn child. CALCRIM 520 (California Criminal Jury Instructions) defines a fetus as “an unborn human being that has progressed beyond the embryonic stage after major structures have been outlined, which occurs at seven to eight weeks of development.”

In California, the killing of an unborn child (fetus) is murder and is covered under Penal Code Section 187.The California Supreme Court has ruled that knowledge of the existence of the fetus is not required to convict of murder (People v. Taylor (2004) 32Cal.4th863, 868). There is also a five year enhancement for an injury inflicted during the commission of a felony that results in a miscarriage of a fetus (California Penal Code Section 12022.9). Of course, medical abortions are excluded from both the murder and enhancement statutes, so long as the pregnant woman consented to terminating the pregnancy.