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Legal Status for Fetuses?

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House Passes Unborn Victims Legislation

Thursday February 26, 2004 8:01 PM


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House voted Thursday to treat attacks on a pregnant woman as separate crimes against both her and the fetus she is carrying. Critics say it would undermine abortion rights by giving fetuses new federal legal status.


Passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act was actively backed by the White House and President Bush's conservative supporters. Following enactment of the law banning ``partial birth'' abortions last year, the bill is this year's prime measure dealing with the unborn.


It passed 254-163 after the House rejected a Democratic-led alternative that would have increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women in which the fetus is injured or killed without conferring new rights on fetuses.


Backers further highlighted the bill by naming it in honor of Laci and Conner Peterson, the pregnant woman who was murdered in December, 2002, and her unborn child.


``There are two victims in these kinds of attacks,'' said Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Pa., chief sponsor of the legislation. ``That is so clear from the Laci and Conner Peterson case.''


Laci's husband Scott Peterson faces double murder charges under California's state unborn victims law. California is one of 29 states that have enacted such laws, and supporters said Congress needs to bring the federal government in line with state laws.


The measure would be applicable only when federal crimes - such as terrorism, drug trafficking or offenses on federal land or on military bases - are committed.


The White House expressed strong support for the legislation and opposed any ``one-victim'' alternatives such as that offered by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. Her substitute, backed by most Democrats, fell 229-186.


Supporters denied that the bill was about abortion, pointing to language in the bill that specifically protects those carrying out legal abortions from prosecution. But the abortion issue dominated the debate.


``You deny personhood, which is a legal concept, to the unborn,'' Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., a strong opponent of abortion, said to critics of the bill. ``Here's an opportunity to not restrict the liberty of a pregnant woman, but to enhance the sanctity of human life.''


But Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said it would be the first time in federal law that a fetus would be recognized as having the same rights as the born. The bill ``is not about shielding pregnant women,'' she said. ``It is and has always been about undermining freedom of choice.''


The House, said Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, was ``taking advantage of tragedy to promote the far-right agenda of trying to rob women of their right to choose.''


The two sides also argued over language in the bill that defines ``unborn child'' as ``a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.''


Critics said that under this definition even a fertilized egg would have the same rights as the born, setting the stage for future challenges to abortion rights.


But those behind the bill noted that identical language was used in a 2000 bill that barred the execution of pregnant women. That bill passed the House 417-0 but didn't move in the Senate.


The House has also twice before, in 1999 and 2001, passed unborn victims bills, but in both those cases as well the Senate, where abortion rights lawmakers hold greater sway, did not take up the legislation.


Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has pledged to bring up the bill soon, but it's uncertain whether he has the votes to pass it.


The bill also states that an offense does not require proof that the assailant had knowledge that the victim was pregnant. Hart noted that murder is a leading cause of death among pregnant women and in many cases the attack is made with the intention to kill the unborn child.


I'm not sure what I think about this one. I definitely agree that there should be extra punishment for someone who kills a fetus on top of whatever else they were doing, but is this the right way to go about it? By recognizing a fetus as a seperate victim, you are more or less supporting the view that it is a person- which means that it is entitled to a set of rights. One piece of wording I am not comfortable with is the 'at any stage of developement' line when defining the term 'unborn child'. It seems to leave the door open a little too conveniently. Any thoughts?

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In a way, like mr abc man said, it does make the whole abortion thing more complicated, but I like the idea in a way because sometimes these sicko husbands/boyfriends/baby daddies get crazy when they find out they knocked someone up and try to kill the baby on the sly.


This story on the news not that long ago was about a respected doctor who was poisoning his wife's food because he didn't want the baby she was pregnant with..so she had to give birth to a still-born(dead) baby. That kinda shit is sick and deserves very severe punishment, at least in my opinion.

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i agree that pregnant women deserve more rights under the law

i agree that they should be shielded from violent crimes

and that there should be extra punishment for people who victimize pregnant women


...as there are special circumstances when a victim is under the age of i think 7..for example, it's automatically capital murder if you kill someone that young..


but the legal status for the fetus as a separate person, that's clearly an ulterior agenda..


fucking republicans. disguising their undermining of women's reproductive rights within a bill to protect pregnant women...they should be ashamed of themselves.

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but i do have one teenie weenie little issue.


What if a man gets a woman pregnant, and wants the child. he will take full responsibility and custody of the child and raise the kid on his own. but the woman doesn't want to have the kid. I think it kind of sucks that the man has no say. of course the guy isnt the one that has to be pregnant for 9 months and have the baby, but i think it sucks that a dude who doesnt want his kid aborted has no say in the deal. but like i said, pro fuckin choice.

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I agree, men do get the shit end of the descision making stick when it comes to abortion. Especially considering impact that the descision will have on the next nineteen years of a man's life. We can't keep a child that we want, but we can be forced to pay for a child we didn't want in the first place. There is an artificial womb that is being developed (I don't know much about it) which would allow a fetus to be brought to term outside of a woman's body- which opens up all kinds of interesting things to talk about concerning law, evolution, father's rights vs. mother's rights, and all that fun shit. But I am certain it is a far way off from being readily available. I guess you could try to grow a fetus inside of one of those lovelumps until then.


I do think that this will be used to attack pro-choice in coming years, provided it makes it all the way. Reading nothing but the name 'Unborn Victims of Violence Act' was enough to get me going 'shiiiiiiit.'

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Originally posted by Don't Panic

I do think that this will be used to attack pro-choice in coming years, provided it makes it all the way. Reading nothing but the name 'Unborn Victims of Violence Act' was enough to get me going 'shiiiiiiit.'


thats the problem. i believe in FATHERS rights, but you know that shit will be used to attack pro-choice. definitely a complex issue. anyways, i always whip it out and stick it in my girls mouth before i nut anyway, so none of this really applies to me.

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Originally posted by Don't Panic

hahahahhaha... yeah, and if she pees afterwards, she won't get pregnant.


But seriously.... tell me you're not?


not what? serious?


actually i'm lying. my girl is a cute innocent little chinese girl. i try not to violate her too bad in bed, but we only been together for a month or so. we'll see what happens in the future.

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i decided a while ago that i'm somewhat pro-life. i'm about as liberal as they get on most things, but i think killing babies is fucked up. if you make a mistake you ought to deal with the consequences. just because it's scientifically possible doesn't make it morally allright. if i got my girlfriend pregnant, it would fucking end my world right now. i'd probably have to drop out of school and get a shit job. it would be terrible, but i just cant think it's fine to kill your baby. you got to take responsobility if you fuck up.


that aside, i think abortions should be legal, and available to women upon request, no questions asked. the fact is, chicks will be aborting babies forever, and they might as well be able to do it safely. just like the clean needles thing in LA for heroin addicts. i'm not for legalizing heroin, but if we can provide them with a safe way of avoiding getting aids, that's cool by me.


as for the shit you posted, i think its fine. if someone's going to be hitting pregnant women they ought to get as much time as they can.

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