Senators Defeat One-Victim Bill That Denies Justice to Unborn Victims

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 25, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senators Defeat One-Victim Bill That Denies Justice to Unborn Victims

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 25, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Members of the U.S. Senate defeated a competing proposal to the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that would say there is only one victim when a pregnant woman is assaulted and her unborn child is killed or injured.

The substitute proposal, put forward by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) was defeated on a 50-49 vote.

"The Feinstein amendment does not recognize a second victim — and it goes against good common sense," said pro-life Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) who led the debate for lawmakers in favor of the unborn victims bill.

Senator Feinstein said her legislation would provide similar penalties as the unborn victims bill. However, the amendment makes it a crime "to cause the termination or interruption of the normal course of pregnancy," but then prohibits prosecution "for matters related to the pregnancy."

Highlighting the problem, the Justice Department issued a letter Wednesday saying the Feinstein bill would fail to prosecute criminals for killing or injuring an unborn child.

"Because the [Feinstein] substitute removes any reference to the unborn child, the prohibited conduct in the substitute cannot be the injury or death of the child," the letter says. "Because there are currently no penalties in federal law for the offenses of ‘termination of a pregnancy’ or the ‘interruption of the normal course of pregnancy,’ there would be no penalty even assuming that a successful prosecution could be brought."

"The problem is under the Feinstein amendment it doesn’t recognize a baby," Sen. DeWine said.

Senator Feinstein also said her version of the bill was necessary because the unborn victims bill targets abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

"Clearly there is a concerted effort to codify in law the legal recognition that life begins at conception," Feinstein said. She cited pro-life advocates who said the bill would help overturn the Roe v. Wade case that allowed abortion.

But Senator DeWine pointed to an abortion exemption in the bill and said, "This bill has nothing do with abortion, the language could not be simpler."

"If the language of this bill would have been a problem with abortion, it would have been a problem with these states," DeWine explained, referring to the 29 states that have unborn victims laws and the 16 that protect mother and their children during the entirety of pregnancy.

The case of Laci and Conner Peterson came up numerous times during the debate.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) claimed Feinstein "wrote the bill with Laci Peterson’s family in her heart."

But Sharon Rocha, Laci’s mother, strongly rejects the Feinstein amendment.

"Senator Feinstein has a bill that says that crimes like the murder of Laci and Conner have only one victim," Rocha explained. "But Laci knew that Conner was her son, and I know it too."

"In this difficult time, my family is grateful that under California law, the murders of Laci and Conner can both be prosecuted. But for the families of many other murder victims across the country, there can be no such comfort," Rocha said.

President Bush opposed the Feinstein substitute while Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, voted for it.

ACTION: To see how your senators voted, click here.

Related web sites:
Justice Department letter –
Sharon Rocha’s Remarks –