March 14, 2001
volume 12, no. 73

Unborn Victims of Violence Act Gets Congressional Hearing Thursday

    WASHINGTON, DC - (March 13, 2001 - National Right to Life from - The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution will hold hearings Thursday on the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" (HR 503), pro-life legislation that would establish additional penalties for a criminal who kills or injures an unborn child in the course of committing a crime against a pregnant mother, such as assault.

    The bill would create a separate criminal offense if an individual causes death or injury to a "member of the species Homo sapiens at all stages of development.''

    "Protecting the unborn is not a new idea," pro-life Rep. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), the bill's chief sponsor, said, adding, "In fact, about half the states have statutes or judicial decisions that criminalize behavior that harms or kills the unborn."

    Graham, who has collected 74 co-sponsors for the bill, said it is not about abortion, but instead "is about violence against women and holding criminals accountable for their actions.'' Graham noted that 24 states have statutes or judicial decisions that make it a crime to kill or injure an embryo or a fetus. "Unfortunately, federal law is silent on the matter. It's time we address that oversight,'' he said.

    However, pro-abortion groups oppose the bill because they oppose recognizing an unborn child as a person under law.

    According to Gerry Bradley, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, the bill would not violate the Constitution "because the Supreme Court has never ruled that the unborn are not people." He said, "[S]tates are free to protect the unborn child against frustrated boyfriends who kick pregnant women in the stomach."

    Pro-life Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), who introduced similar legislation in the Senate last week, said, "It's just plain wrong that our federal government does absolutely nothing to criminalize violent acts against unborn children. We cannot allow criminals to get away with murder."

    DeWine cited the 1996 case of an airman stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, who beat his pregnant wife, hitting her in the abdomen and causing her to miscarry. The Senator said the airman was convicted under Ohio's fetal homicide law, but he added, "It's just plain wrong that our federal government does absolutely nothing to criminalize violent acts against unborn children. We cannot allow criminals to get away with murder.''

    Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, in a letter to lawmakers, urged opposition to pro-abortion amendments to the bill. The pro-abortion proposal did not recognize unborn children as crime victims, but rather provided enhanced penalties for the offense of "interruption to the normal course of the pregnancy."

    "Such a 'one-victim' amendment would codify the fiction that when a criminal assailant injures a mother and kills her unborn child there has been only a compound injury to the mother, but no loss of any human life," Johnson explained. "Such internal contradictions are produced by tortured efforts to avoid acknowledging what everyone really knows: these crimes have two victims."

    Susan Muskett, director of legislative affairs at the Christian Coalition of America, said she is confident the measure will pass the House again. She added: "This time we have more of an incentive to get it through the Senate because we know we have a pro-life president who will sign it.

    An identical measure passed the House in September 1999 by a 254-172 vote but died in the Senate after the Clinton administration opposed it. However, Graham said, referring to President Bush, "If we put this bill on the President's desk, I believe he'll sign it.''

ACTION: Please contact the following members of Congress, if they are yours, and encourage them to support HR 503: Republicans: Steve Chabot (R-OH), Jenkins (R-TN), Lyndsey Graham (R-SC), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), John Hostettler (R-IN), Melissa Hart (R-PA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Asa Hutchison (R-AR); Democrats: Jarrold Nadler (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-M), John Conyers (D-MI), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Mel Watt (D-NC). You can call these members at 202-224-3121.

March 14, 2001
volume 12, no. 73
Pro Life News
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