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Monday, September 12, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hov Lanes: `Unborn' Baby Doesn't Make 2 -- Court Rules Fetus Can't Count As Second Person

An unborn child does not count when it comes to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, a Seattle Municipal Court magistrate ruled today.

Mary Ellen Keppler, 35, of Snohomish, tried to argue that when she was cited for being in violation of the HOV law in Seattle on March 19, 1993, she was six months pregnant and that the fetus counted as a second person.

"I consider a viable fetus a person," Keppler told Magistrate Deborah A. St. Sing. "I'm a nurse, and when a pregnant woman enters our care we consider that two people," she said.

Keppler gave the magistrate a case history of an unborn fetus being counted as a person, but St. Sing said the case did not go to the point of law involved in the traffic violation, and in creating the law the Legislature made no exception for pregnant women.

St. Sing ordered Keppler to pay the entire fine: $47.

Afterward, Keppler said she was not arguing her case for "any grand principle," but to keep her insurance rates from going up.

"I don't feel I did anything wrong that day," she added.

Keppler, who was cited in the Columbia-Cherry Street tunnel car-pool lane in downtown Seattle, said she hasn't decided if she will appeal.

The fetus has since developed into a robust baby, Forrest John Keppler, 14 months.

In court today, Forrest, unaware that he was at the center of a legal argument, paid more attention to the juice he was drinking from a baby bottle.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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