By MATT APUZZO
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Angering both sides of the abortion debate, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a fetus is a body part, akin to teeth, skin and hair that are eventually shed.
The ruling unanimously upheld the conviction of a man who tried to induce a miscarriage by slipping his girlfriend labor-inducing drugs. Edwin Sandoval argued he could not be charged with attempting to commit aggravated assault because the fetus was the target, not the mother.
Though the court held that the 5-week-old fetus was part of the woman's body, Chief Justice William J. Sullivan issued a separate concurring opinion saying a fetus might have ``its own independent existence.''
``In other words, the fetus may both be a part of its mother as well as its own individual being,'' Sullivan wrote.
Anti-abortion groups applauded the court's protection of the fetus, but criticized the identification of a fetus as a body part.
``It could have had a different blood type, and certainly it had different DNA,'' said Bill O'Brien, vice president of the Connecticut Right to Life Corp.
Sullivan's opinion, which declared that a fetus may be entitled to legal protection, drew criticism from abortion rights groups.
``Any time I hear about giving rights to fetuses, I get concerned,'' said Elaine Werner, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. ``That's the slippery slope to eroding Roe vs. Wade.''
Sandoval was sentenced in 2001 to 12 years in prison for using ulcer medication in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. The woman later gave birth to a healthy son.
Gov. John G. Rowland is expected to sign a bill increasing the penalties for someone convicted of assaulting a pregnant woman and causing her to lose the fetus. The assault would be punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison.
Defense attorney Paula Waite said if the fetus is its own life form, the state's abortion laws are in question. If the fetus is a body part, laws increasing the penalty for assaulting a pregnant woman could be jeopardized.
Another defense attorney promised to appeal.
People try to change the world, instead of themselves. John Cleese