Virginia Governor Signs Unborn Victims Bill, Surprising Many

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

Virginia Governor Signs Unborn Victims Bill, Surprising Many

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 24, 2004

Richmond, VA ( — In a surprising move, Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D) has signed an unborn victims bill that would protect mothers and their unborn children before birth. Under the bill, prosecutors would be allowed to charge criminals that attack women and kill or injure their unborn children with two crimes instead of just one.

While it is labeled a common sense bill that protects some of the most vulnerable members of society, abortion advocates attacked the legislation. They said it could be used to make abortions illegal in the state, even though more than two dozen states have similar legislation.

Warner, who supports abortion, cited the sponsors of the bill, who said that it would not infringe on legal abortions.

"During the debate, the proponents of the bills asserted that the legislation has nothing to do with abortion rights," Warner said.

"Given that clear legislative intent, and given my support for legislation that punishes violent acts against women, especially any violent act that results in harm to or the death of a pregnant woman or her fetus, I have signed these bills into law," Warner added.

Those found guilty of killing an unborn child as a result of an attack on a pregnant woman could serve as long as 40 years in prison for the crime. Those culpable must serve a minimum of five years.

Warner initially vetoed the bill and asked legislators to include a statement saying nothing in the legislation would be used to overturn legal abortion. State legislators overrode the veto with the state House rejecting the amendment 69-31, and the state Senate 25-15.

"This legislation sets Virginia on a course that can ultimately overturn a woman’s right to choose, the ultimate goal of many proponents of these measures," Bennet Greenberg, of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, told the Washington Times.

Pro-abortion groups, in other states, have taken such laws to court claiming they would infringe on a "right" to abortion. Courts have disagreed with that stance and upheld other states’ bills in every instance.

The bill was modeled after similar legislation in other states and the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.

The national version of the law was named Laci and Conner’s Bill for the wife and 8-month old unborn son of Scott Peterson who were found dead on the shores of San Francisco Bay. Scott Peterson is currently on trial on charges in connection with their deaths.

Planned Parenthood’s Greenberg said pro-life lawmakers took "shameful advantage" of Laci and Conner’s deaths by highlighting that case when promoting their bill.

However, Laci Peterson’s mother, Sharon Rocha, and other Laci family members strongly support unborn victims legislation.

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