U.S. House Votes to Recognize Unborn Children As Crime Victims

WASHINGTON -- October 1999 -- The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) today heralded a strong vote in the House of Representatives in favor of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (HR 2436), a bill to recognize unborn children as victims of federally prohibited crimes ofviolence. The bill passed 254-172, over objections from the Clinton-Gore White House.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), if someone injures or kills an unborn child while committing a violent federal crime against a pregnant woman, the assailant will be charged with a separate offense on behalf of the unborn child, with a separate penalty appropriate to the degree of injury to the unborn child. "The bill simply puts federal law behind the common sense recognition that when a criminal attacks a pregnant woman, and injures or kills her unborn child, he has claimed two human victims," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.

HR 2436 explicitly says that it does not "permit the prosecution of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman has been obtained." Nevertheless, NRLC supports the bill because it achieves other pro-life purposes that are worthwhile in their own right: the protection of unborn children from acts of violence other than abortion, the recognition of unborn children as victims of such violent criminal acts, and the punishment of those who kill or injure unborn children while engaged in federally prohibited acts of violence. The House rejected (224-201) an alternative proposal (the Lofgren Amendment) that reflected the position of pro-abortion advocacy groups that there is only one victim in such crimes the pregnant woman. "It is shameful that, urged on by the pro-abortion lobby and the Clinton-Gore White House, 172 lawmakers voted to defend the cold-hearted concept that if a criminal injures a pregnant woman and kills her unborn child, nobody has died," Johnson said.

"In principle, this bill is like the law that Congress enacted without objection in 1994, which prohibits carrying out a death sentence on any woman while she is pregnant," Johnson noted. "Everyone recognizes that such an execution would take two human lives, only one of whom had been sentenced to die." Twenty-four (24) states already have enacted laws that recognize unborn children as victims of violent crimes, including 11 that provide such protection throughout the period of in utero development. These laws have withstood all legal challenges in federal and state courts.

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