From: The Pro-Life Infonet
Reply-To: Steven Ertelt at email@example.com
Subject: U.S. House Passes Unborn Victims of Violence Act
Source: Cybercast News Service, Associated Press, CNN, Reuters, Pro-Life Infonet
April 26, 2001
Washington, DC -- In a bipartisan 252 to 172 vote, the House Thursday passed pro-life legislation that would make it a federal crime to kill or injure an unborn baby in the process of attacking a pregnant woman.
Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who sponsored the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, was encouraged by the vote. The bill had 95 co-sponsors. "A bipartisan majority in Congress is committed to closing this scandalous gap in federal law. Once everyone got beyond the shrill rhetoric and looked at the facts, they realized what we are trying to do just made sense," Graham said in a written statement Thursday.
Abortion advocates opposed the bill as a first step toward defining an unborn baby as a person -- with the ultimate goal being to ban abortion. Graham pointed out that the bill received support from both pro-lifers and abortion supporters in the House.
"There aren't 252 pro-life members in the House of Representatives. We picked up a lot of support from pro-choice members. I think that shows the bill isn't about abortion, but holding criminals accountable for their actions," said Graham.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) applauded the vote, but booed the introduction of a "one-victim substitute" amendment that would have increased penalties for assaulting a pregnant woman, but would not make killing or injuring an unborn child a separate crime.
Pro-life legislators defeated the pro-abortion amendment before the final vote. The amendment failed on a 169-229 vote.
"Lawmakers who voted for the one-victim bill will have to explain why they voted to say that, when a criminal attacks a pregnant woman and kills her unborn baby, nobody has really died," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. "These groups oppose any recognition that unborn children are members of the human family, even when their right to life is violated by criminal attackers," said Johnson.
"Anything that makes people reflect about the humanity of the unborn child, we think, is a good thing," Johnson added.
Prospects in the Senate are less certain -- where there is a greater percentage of pro-life Republicans and a smaller percentage of pro-life Democrats. The Senate Judiciary Committee, now evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, has yet to set a hearing on the issue this year.
The legislation, after passing 254-172 in the House last year, stalled in the Senate because of a veto threat from pro-abortion President Clinton. However, President Bush has indicated he supports this pro-life bill.
"This legislation affirms our commitment to a culture of life, which welcomes and protects children," President Bush said in a prepared statement as he traveled to Houston on Thursday.
The Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation's largest public policy women's organization, praised the vote. "The success of this vote shows the far-reaching support this legislation gained," said Michael Schwartz, vice president of government relations for CWA in a written statement. "The American people expect justice to be done; they believe criminals should be held responsible for taking a life. Legislators should support this bill as a deterrent to violent crime," Schwartz said.
"Violent assailants should not be given a pass for their crime because their victim was inside a loving mother's womb," said Wendy Wright, director of communications for CWA. "A mother or father should not suffer a second assault of their child being ignored by our justice system."
"The Senate will be the next phase in our battle for justice," said Schwartz. "I believe the president's support will encourage the senators who know this is the right thing to do. The American people want justice. They want this legislation signed into law."
Pro-abortion Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) attacked the bill saying all major pro-abrotion groups oposed it. "Most people understand that [Roe] is under attack and that's why the National Abortion Rights and Reproductive Action League is opposed, Planned Parenthood Federation of America is opposed, the National Abortion Federation is opposed, the National Women's Law Center is opposed," Conyers said. "You think they don't understand this bill very much? I think they do."
In one ad run in several publications this week by the National Right to Life Committee, a Wisconsin woman holds the body of her unborn son, who died when she was assaulted by her husband while nine she was months pregnant.
The woman, Tracy Scheide Marciniak, opposed the pro-abortion alternative proposal. "I was four days away from full-term, my due date, and my husband at the time brutally beat me in the stomach, twice hit me purposely, and I lost my son because of that, and I almost lost my life," she said.
That story helped change Wisconsin law. At the time, her husband could be charged only for the injuries to his wife, not for murder. Now, Wisconsin and more than 20 other states have laws that treat violent crime against pregnant women as crimes against two separate individuals.
A recent poll reveals most Americans support the bill. American Online asked members today whether "it be a federal crime to harm a fetus." With 14,000 answers, 65.5% says yes, 26.9% said no and 7.6% said they were unsure.
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