House Set to Vote on Unborn Victims of Violence Act

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act on Feb. 26, a pro-life group said Tuesday.

H.R. 1997, also known as "Laci and Conner's Law," would allow federal and military prosecutors to bring charges on behalf of an unborn child when he or she is a victim of a violent crime directed against the pregnant mother.

The National Right to Life Committee notes that the bill defines "child in utero" as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."

Public attention to the fetal homicide issue has increased over the past year, NRLC said, partly because of widespread interest in the killing of Laci Peterson and her unborn son Conner - allegedly at her husband's hands.

Although California is charging Scott Peterson with two counts of murder, the NRLC said abortion-rights advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood insist that such crimes have only a single victim - the pregnant woman.

In a press release, the NRLC warned that in order to pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, the House must first reject a radically different bill - the "single-victim substitute amendment" (Lofgren Substitute) - which is backed by abortion-rights advocacy groups.

The "single-victim substitute" would increase penalties for a federal crime that victimizes a pregnant woman if it causes "interruption" of her pregnancy, but it would also write into federal law the doctrine that such a crime has only a single victim, NRLC said.

According to NRLC, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has indicated that the Senate may also take up the fetal homicide issue very soon. The Senate has never before considered the issue.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) opposes the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

In a "dear constituent" form letter dated June 17, 2003, Kerry wrote, "I believe that an attack on a pregnant woman should carry increased penalties. However, legislation granting a fetus the same legal status in all stages of development as a human being is not the appropriate response.

"I have serious concerns about this legislation because the law cannot simultaneously provide that a fetus is a human being and protect the right of the mother to choose to terminate her pregnancy. Therefore, I do not support the Unborn Victims of Violence Act."

President Bush, on the other hand, has repeatedly urged Congress to pass the bill, which he would sign into law.

The National Right to Life Committee says it has created "the most extensive resource on the Internet concerning unborn victims of violence and fetal homicide laws."

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