WASHINGTON, APR. 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. House of Representatives handily passed a bill today that would criminalize harm brought to an unborn child when a violent act is committed against its mother.
The bill would allow a second criminal offense to be filed if the pregnant woman attacked sustains an injury to her unborn child, or if the pregnancy is terminated because of the assault.
The legislation passed 252-172, with 53 opposition Democrats lending their support. The Associated Press reported that the House passed virtually identical legislation last session by a 254-172 vote, but the Senate never took it up.
"This bill should have the support of everyone in Congress," said Representative Sue Myrick, a North Carolina Republican. "We should all agree to help young women from forced, cruel and painful abortions."
Those who spoke in opposition said the bill represented an effort on the part of Republicans to uproot the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand.
The House rejected, 229-196, a "one-victim" substitute measure, backed by abortion activists, which would essentially say there is only one victim in an assault -- the mother.
Twenty-four states already have enacted laws that recognize unborn children as victims of violent crimes, and these states have been upheld by the courts, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 26, 01 (CWNews.com) - The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would apply additional federal penalties to crimes committed against pregnant women that harm the unborn child.
The bill was hailed by most pro-lifers, although at least one group called the bill a retreat from the pro-life cause. "After 28 years of incremental surrender, it is time for the pro-life movement to focus solely on the fundamental reason why abortion is a crime," said Judie Brown, president of American Life League. "Abortion is a crime because it is the deliberate, cold-blooded murder of an innocent human person."
Brown said the Unborn Victims of Violence Act represents "the latest line of retreat of the beltway lobby which can no longer claim that protection for all preborn persons is its goal."
The House voted 252-172 to pass the measure after a lengthy debate in which pro-abortion advocates called it an attempt to push for the legal recognition of an unborn child as a person. "This is not an abortion bill," said Rep. F. James
Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "Without this bill, crimes against these innocent victims will go unpunished." The measure would apply only to crimes in federal jurisdiction, but 24 states have similar statutes. President George W. Bush has said he would sign the bill if it passes the Senate.
The Family Research Council applauded the bill. "Most Americans favor protecting the child in the womb from violence," said FRC spokesman Teresa Wagner. "In opposing this bill, which mimics the protective statutes in half the states, the abortion lobby shows it is out of step with most Americans."
Answering pro-abortion objections, Wagner added, "If abortion advocates are concerned that this bill will confer rights on the child in the womb that may some day interfere with abortion, they will need to undo a lot of laws."
"In addition to unborn victims' statutes in over half the states, American law recognizes the unborn child in several other areas. For example, the child conceived but not yet born can inherit property, and individuals who sustain injury in utero can seek personal injury damages under principles of tort law."
Democratic opponents had offered an alternative bill that would have increased penalties for committing violent crimes against pregnant women, but would not have made harming the unborn child a separate crime. That measure was rejected and 53 Democrats joined Republicans in passing the original bill.