U.S. House Committee Approves Unborn Victims of Violence Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 21, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

U.S. House Committee Approves Unborn Victims of Violence Bill

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 21, 2004

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Members of a House committee took the first steps in offering further protection to pregnant women and their unborn children, by approving legislation that would allow prosecutors to hold criminals accountable when they kill or injure an unborn child in the course of an attack against a pregnant woman.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a 20-13 party line vote, though the bill is expected to receive considerable bipartisan support on the House floor.

Lawmakers say that pregnant women are increasingly targeted with violence — including some cases where the attacker intends to cause harm to the baby to avoid becoming a father and bearing the legal and financial responsibilities for the child.

Members of the committee supporting the Unborn Victims of Violence Act said it was a travesty of justice that criminals could escape prosecution for the death or injury to a woman’s unborn baby.

"Injuring or killing an unborn child during an attack against a pregnant woman has no legal consequence," explained pro-life Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio). "This situation is unacceptable.”

Abortion advocates claim the only purpose of the bill is to afford unborn children further recognition under law — something that would eventually lead to the downfall of Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion.

"This is part of a larger cultural war that is going on,” said pro-abortion Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.

Abortion advocates also disagree with the bill’s premise, saying that there is only one victim when a pregnant woman is attacked and her unborn baby is killed or injured.

Pro-abortion Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, offered a substitute version of the bill that says there is only one victim when an attack on a pregnant woman kills or injures her unborn child. Members of the committee rejected that version, which pro-life groups opposed.

The Unborn Victims bill passed the House in 1999 and 2001, but never received a vote in the Senate. Now that the Senate agenda is formulated by pro-life senators, pro-life groups are hoping that the bill will finally come up for a vote on the Senate floor this year — though a pro-abortion filibuster remains a possibility.

The bill, HR 1997, also known as Laci and Conner’s Law, after Laci and Conner Peterson, is sponsored by pro-life Rep. Melissa Hart, of Pennsylvania. Pro-life Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) is the main sponsor of the Senate version.

Sharon Rocha — whose daughter Laci and unborn grandson Conner were brutally murdered in California just over a year ago — has urged lawmakers to reject the "single-victim" Lofgren proposal and to enact the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

In a letter to congressional sponsors of the bill, Rocha said that enactment of the Lofgren "single-victim" proposal would be "a painful blow to those, like me, who are left alive after a two-victim crime, because Congress would be saying that Conner and other innocent unborn victims like him are not really victims — indeed, that they never really existed at all. But our grandson did live. He had a name, he was loved, and his life was violently taken from him before he ever saw the sun."

The bill would recognize as a legal victim any "child in utero" who is injured or killed during the commission of a federal crime of violence. The bill covers unborn children throughout pregnancy.

President Bush supports the legislation.