by Steven Ertelt
May 5, 2006
Juneau, AK (LifeNews.com) — The Alaska state House has approved legislation that would offer additional protection and justice to pregnant women and their unborn children in cases of violence against them. The chamber approved the measure on a 30-9 vote after an intense debate.
The bill would make Alaska the next state to allow prosecutors to charge criminals who attack a pregnant woman and kill or injure her unborn children with a second crime.
Sen. Fred Dyson, a Republican who sponsored the measure, observed the debate and vote and described the bill’s passage as a "huge human rights step."
Though the measure doesn’t touch the issue of abortion, Dyson said the bill is still a good educational tool to help people understand that an unborn child is a unique human being who deserves protection under law.
"But for some it will raise the cognitive dissonance that while a force of law recognizes a wanted unborn child as protected under Alaska law — like an eagle’s egg — an unwanted child is still in great jeopardy," Dyson told AP.
That recognition upsets abortion advocates who frequently put their devotion to legal abortion ahead of protecting women by opposing such bills.
Rep. Eric Croft, a Democrat from Anchorage, raised the views of abortion advocates and said he wasn’t sure the state should adopt a measure calling an unborn child a person "any stage of development."
According to an AP report, Croft claimed the bill violated a woman’s right to privacy, the basis on which the Supreme Court allowed abortions in Roe v. Wade. However, all such unborn victims laws have withstood constitutional challenges in various court cases over the years.
Croft proposed an amendment pro-life lawmakers opposed that would not have considered the unborn child a separate person and victim under law but would have merely added an additional penalty for attacking a pregnant woman. The House defeated his substitute amendment.
Alaska Right to Life executive director Karen Lewis said an amendment like Croft’s says the baby is not a second victim and her group opposed it.
"It would negate the intent of the bill, which is the protection of the smallest, most vulnerable member of humanity," she said.
Planned Parenthood Alaska executive director Clover Simon, trashed the bill during the committee hearing and said it was an attack on abortion.
Some 21 states have laws similar to Dyson’s bill and another 12 protect pregnant women and unborn children in the later stages of pregnancy.
The House Finance Committee signed off on the legislation, SB 20, on an 8-3 vote.
Related web sites:
Alaska state legislature – https://www.legis.state.ak.us