Iowa Bill Would Prosecute Criminals for Violence Against Pregnant Women

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 24, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Iowa Bill Would Prosecute Criminals for Violence Against Pregnant Women

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
January 24, 2004

Des Moines, IA ( — Lawmakers in Iowa are considering a bill which would offer further protection for pregnant women who are victims of violence and ensure that criminals are prosecuted for unborn children who are killed or injured as a result of an assault.

Under the proposed "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," an unborn baby would be considered a person under law and the secondary victim, when a violent crime is committed against a pregnant woman.

Current Iowa law says violent offenders can only be penalized for what is referred to as "unintended termination of pregnancy." But the penalties involved are much less stringent from the standard punishment for violent crimes such as homicide or manslaughter.

According to Kim Gordon, executive director of the Iowa Right to Life Committee, the bill is inspired by the Laci and Conner Peterson case. Laci Peterson and her unborn child, Conner, were murdered in California last year and their bodies were eventually found washed ashore on San Francisco Bay. Her husband, Scott Peterson, is being tried for the double homicide.

Gordon said Iowa law should "punish criminals for (harm to) the mother and her unborn child. We hope to correct the current law to reflect this intent."

Legislative leaders expressed willingness to consider the proposal.

"That’s something we would probably take a look at," House Speaker Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City) told a Quad Cities newspaper.

Some two dozen states already have such fetal homicide laws on the books, according to Iowa Right to Life. Half of them prosecute for crimes against unborn children after viability and the other half protect pregnant women and their babies throughout pregnancy.

The Iowa legislation also has the support of a pro-family organizations.

"The goal (of the bill) is to say that an unborn child who’s injured or killed is just as valuable and that the crime is as heinous" as if a born child were involved, Chuck Hurley, President of the Iowa Family Policy Center, said.

"This law is a matter of common sense, a matter of justice, and a matter of human dignity," Hurley added.

Related web sites:
Iowa Right to Life Committee —
National Right to Life information on fetal homicide