WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate today, March 25, debated on legislation that would make it a federal crime to harm or kill an “unborn child” and recognize it as two victims – the mother and the “unborn child,” when the violent crime is committed against a pregnant woman. The vote is expected later today.
Both pro-lifers and abortion rights groups are highly considering the legislation because once the bill, “Unborn Victims of Violence Act”, is passed, it would recognize that life begins at conception and eventually abortion would be excluded as the pro-lifers are hoping.
Supporters of the bill are optimistic that it would pass the Senate. The bill has already passed the House and President Bush has promised to sign it into law.
On the other had, critics are pushing for an alternative that would punish violence against pregnant women without declaring the “unborn child” a person, saying it is diminishing women’s rights.
"It's simple justice," said Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine, a lead sponsor of the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act."
"I don't know why you'd want to give a criminal a break if he goes around beating on pregnant woman," said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. "If you attack a woman of childbearing years, you do so at your own peril."
The National Right to Life Committee strongly supports the legislation, saying the public overwhelmingly believed two victims were involved when a pregnant woman was harmed. But the American Civil Liberties Union has called it a "thinly veiled attempt to create fetal rights and further erode women's reproductive rights."
The bill was introduced after Laci Peterson, who was pregnant, was murdered in December 2002. Under California law, her husband Scott Peterson faces double murder charges.
Next week, trials are expected to be held challenging last October’s congressional ban on partial-birth abortion Monday in New York, Nebraska, and San Francisco. The legislation is a major challenge for abortion advocates since the ban is the first time in over 30 years.
In defense of the lawsuit, it will be determined during the trials whether or not partial birth abortions are medically necessary based on the medical records from various hospitals and abortion clinics.
"Intact dilation and extraction," commonly known as partial-birth abortion, is usually performed in the second or third trimester and involves the unborn baby's legs and torso being pulled out of the mother and its skull then being punctured and crushed after the brains are suctioned out.