NRS 200.210 is the Nevada statute that makes it manslaughter to deliberately harm a pregnant woman – or for a pregnant woman to harm herself – in order to terminate her unborn fetus. A category B felony, “feticide” carries one to 10 years in prison and possibly $10,000.
Feticide under NRS 200.210 is a separate crime from performing illegal abortions (NRS 201.120). The overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022 does not affect women’s abortion rights in Nevada.
Nevada law permits surgical and medical abortions by a licensed doctor within 24 weeks post-fertilization. After that, abortions can be done only if the mother’s life is endangered.
The statute reads in full:
NRS 200.210. 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.
Definition of “unborn quick child”
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
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.
Though Nevada courts are under no obligation to follow other states’ definition of “quickening.”2
Feticide cases typically spring from domestic disputes that turn violent.
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 murder.
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.
Example: Bonnie is suicidal and stabs her abdomen with a knife. Her roommate calls 911, who sends 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.
The most common defense to Nevada charges of illegally terminating an unborn child is that the defendant lacked any intent to kill.
- 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
Arrested? Call for help…
If you have been arrested for “killing a fetus” in Nevada, call for a consultation. Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys may be able to get your charge reduced or even dismissed.
In California? See our article on the Penal Code 187 PC.
- NRS 200.210. Roe v. Wade, (1973) 410 U.S. 113. Overturned in Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, et al. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization et al. See also Katelyn Newberg, Can I still get an abortion in Nevada? Abortion questions, answers., Las Vegas Review-Journal (June 25, 2022).
- 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).
- Erica D. Johnson, Guilty plea made after charge of killing fetus is dropped, Las Vegas Sun (May 9, 2003).
- NRS 201.120 Abortion: Definition; penalty. A person who:
- NRS 200.220 Taking drugs to terminate pregnancy; penalty.
- NRS 201.130 Selling drugs to produce miscarriage; penalty
- NRS 201.150 Concealing birth; penalty.
- NRS 202.200 Advertising goods and services to produce miscarriage.