Deliberately harming a pregnant woman in order to terminate the unborn baby is considered a type of manslaughter under Nevada law. This law also applies to pregnant women who harm themselves with the intent to kill their unborn children.
Note that Nevada law remains unclear about whether criminal liability attaches to feticide of very young fetuses. Also note that feticide under NRS 200.210 is a separate crime from the Nevada crime of performing illegal abortions.
The most common defense to Nevada charges of illegally terminating an unborn child is that the defendant lacked any intent to kill.
Feticide is a category B felony in Nevada. The punishment carries:
- 1 – 10 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- up to $10,000
On this page, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of willfully killing unborn children. Continue reading to learn the definition, ways to fight charges, and possible punishments.
It is manslaughter in Nevada to willfully kill “an unborn quick child” by injuring the mother. Puzzlingly, Nevada lawmakers have never specified what “an unborn quick child” is.1 Therefore NRS 200.210 is a vague law, making feticide cases more difficult for the D.A. to prosecute.
Other states define an “unborn quick child” as a fetus who is progressed enough to cause the mother to detect its movement…this usually occurs by the sixteenth to eighteenth week of gestation. But note that Nevada courts are under no obligation to follow other states’ definition of “quickening.”2
Feticide cases typically spring from domestic disputes that turn violent. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Mike Becker recounts a real-life Las Vegas feticide case from 2003:
Example: Jesus Villagomez allegedly stabbed his eighteen-week pregnant girlfriend in the stomach while they were fighting in Las Vegas. The knife wound killed the fetus. Mr. Villagomez was charged with feticide as well as attempted murder for trying to kill his girlfriend. In the end, Mr. Villagomez agreed to plead guilty to the attempted murder charge in exchange for the D.A. dropping the feticide charge.
Note that if the girlfriend in the above example was only in her first trimester, the D.A. might have decided not to press feticide charges at all. Since other states define “quick children” as fetuses who are at least in the second trimester, Nevada prosecutors could have determined that it would be difficult to convict Mr. Villagomez under NRS 200.210.3
Also note that pregnant women who harm themselves with the intent to kill their unborn children can be prosecuted under NRS 200.210. Had the girlfriend in the above case stabbed her own stomach, she could have been charged with feticide.
Finally, note that killing babies after they are born vaginally or through a C-section is infanticide, not feticide. And infanticide is prosecuted as the Nevada crime of murder.
- Illegal abortion (NRS 201.120): Abortion is permitted in Nevada as long as a licensed doctor performs them while utilizing standard medical procedures in such clinics as Planned Parenthood. Pregnant women may also take the abortion pill RU486 as long as a doctor prescribes it. Any other means of abortion or attempted abortion is illegal. People who may be prosecuted under this law include pregnant women seeking an illegal abortion, people helping the pregnant women seeking an illegal abortion, and people performing the illegal abortion.4
- Taking abortive drugs (NRS 200.220): Unless a doctor prescribed the abortion pill, it is illegal for women to ingest substances to intentionally bring about an abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy.5
- Selling abortion drugs (NRS 201.130): Other than licensed pharmaceutical companies, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, or give away any medicine or materials with the knowledge that they will be used in producing a miscarriage.6
- Concealing births (NRS 201.150): It is against the law to try to conceal a baby’s birth by throwing out its dead body irrespective of whether the baby died prior to birth.7
- Advertising abortions (NRS 202.200): Nevada law prohibits advertising any service or medicine that would produce a miscarriage or a premature delivery. Even licensed abortionists may not advertise for abortions.8
Nevada law only prohibits intentionally trying to bring about an abortion. Therefore someone who unknowingly causes a fetus to die should not be prosecuted under NRS 200.210. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an illustration:
Example: Bonnie is suicidal and stabs her abdomen with a knife. Her roommate calls 911, who send an ambulance. At Valley Hospital, doctors discover she was two months pregnant, and the stabbing killed the fetus. The police who responded to the 911 call then arrest Bonnie and book her at the Clark County Detention Center for killing her unborn baby. But the D.A. drops the charges when her defense attorney explains that Bonnie had no idea she was pregnant, and her intention was only to kill herself.
Another possible defense in the above example is that Bonnie’s fetus was simply too young to invite prosecution under NRS 200.210. Traditionally, prosecutors are more inclined to punish people who kill fetuses who are closer to birth than to conception. But note this is not a foolproof defense.
Violating NRS 200.210 is a category B felony in Nevada. The punishment is:
- one to 10 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $10,000 fines
Performing an illegal abortion, or intentionally taking drugs to terminate a pregnancy, is a category B felony in Nevada. The sentence is:
- one to ten years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $10,000 fines
Meanwhile, the crimes of illegally selling drugs to induce a miscarriage, advertising abortions, or trying to conceal a dead baby are gross misdemeanors in Nevada, carrying:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
Arrested? Call for help…
If you have been arrested for “killing a fetus” in Nevada, call for a free consultation. Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys may be able to get your charge reduced or even dismissed.
And for information on feticide in California murder law, refer to our page on the California murder law.
1 NRS 200.210 Killing of an unborn quick child; penalty. A person who willfully kills an unborn quick child, by any injury committed upon the mother of the child, commits manslaughter and shall be punished for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.
2 See Paul Benjamin Linton, “The Legal Status of the Unborn Child under State Law,” 6 U. St. Thomas J. Law & Pub. Pol. 141, 143 (2012).
3 Man gets prison in stabbing that killed woman’s fetus, 8 News Now via Associated Press (July 10, 2003).
4 NRS 201.120 Abortion: Definition; penalty. A person who:
1. Prescribes, supplies or administers to a woman, whether pregnant or not, or advises or causes her to take any medicine, drug or substance; or
2. Uses or causes to be used, any instrument or other means,
–> to terminate a pregnancy, unless done pursuant to the provisions of NRS 442.250, or by a woman upon herself upon the advice of a physician acting pursuant to the provisions of NRS 442.250, is guilty of abortion which is a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.
5 NRS 200.220 Taking drugs to terminate pregnancy; penalty. A woman who takes or uses, or submits to the use of, any drug, medicine or substance, or any instrument or other means, with the intent to terminate her pregnancy after the 24th week of pregnancy, unless the same is performed upon herself upon the advice of a physician acting pursuant to the provisions of NRS 442.250, and thereby causes the death of the child of the pregnancy, commits manslaughter and shall be punished for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.
6 NRS 201.130 Selling drugs to produce miscarriage; penalty
Every person who shall manufacture, sell or give away any instrument, drug, medicine or other substance, knowing or intending that the same may be unlawfully used in procuring the miscarriage of a woman, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor In any prosecution for abortion, attempting abortion, or selling drugs unlawfully, no person shall be excused from testifying as a witness on the ground that the testimony would tend to incriminate him or her, but such testimony shall not be used against the person testifying in any criminal prosecution except for perjury in giving such testimony.
7 NRS 201.150 Concealing birth; penalty.
Every person who shall endeavor to conceal the birth of a child by any disposition of its dead body, whether the child died before or after its birth, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
8 NRS 202.200 Advertising goods and services to produce miscarriage.
1. It shall be unlawful for any person:
(a) To advertise or publish, or cause to be advertised or published in a newspaper, pamphlet, handbill, book or otherwise, any medicine, nostrum, drug, substance, instrument or device to produce the miscarriage or premature delivery of a woman pregnant with child, or which purports to be, or is represented to be, productive of such miscarriage or premature delivery; or
(b) To advertise in any manner his or her services, aid, assistance or advice, or the services, assistance or advice of any other person, in the procurement of such miscarriage or premature delivery.
2. Every person who shall violate the provisions of subsection 1 shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.