When Amanda Moore concluded that her daughter’s killer was a drug addict wrongly paroled and wrongly allowed to remain free, she did like many parents before her: she proposed legislation to spare others the same fate. She named it for her child: Amelia’s Law.
For the past two decades, parents who’ve lost children in horrible ways have tried to memorialize them in law, and Americans usually have honored their wishes.
Dozens of state and federal statutes are named for children who died too soon: Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. There’s Kendra’s Law, Leandra’s Law and Lauren’s Law, three Jacob’s Laws and at least three Laura’s Laws.
But, as Amanda Moore has discovered, support for many of these child victim memorials, or “apostrophe laws,” is waning.
Few such bills now before lawmakers promise to have anything like the impact of a Megan’s Law, which gives the public access to information about sex offenders.And some probably won’t become law at all:
In Tennessee, a tight state budget has blocked Amelia’s Law, which would make parole tougher for serious offenders, and Dustin’s Law, which would honor a son killed in a collision with an intoxicated driver by imposing stiffer DUI penalties.
In South Carolina, Emma’s Law and Jaidon’s Law both are stalled. The first, which would require ignition locks for some first-time DUI offenders, faces objections that it’s too harsh; the second, to weaken child custody rights of drug-addicted parents, runs against a state policy favoring family reunification.
In Indiana, Sheena’s Law — named for a daughter killed by a neighbor in an apartment complex and designed to allow renters who’ve been crime victims to break their leases — has been thwarted by landlords who say it could be abused by tenants to get out of leases.
For grieving parents seeking to redeem their loss, such rejection is agonizing. “I just wanted to do something positive,” says Deborah Kiska, who backed Sheena’s Law. “People needed to know that my daughter stood on this earth.”