There's not much new under the legislative sun. Sure, there's tweaking the tax brackets here, adjusting some regulations there, or maybe slowing the runaway increase in discretionary spending. But bold, innovative ideas are pretty rare here in Washington. On April 25, however, the House of Representatives will take up one of those ideas in the form of H.503, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
Introduced on Feb. 7, 2001, by Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the bill now has 95 co-sponsors. Its Senate counterpart, S.480, was introduced on March 7, 2001, by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and has 10 co-sponsors. The bill would amend the federal criminal code and Uniform Code of Military Justice to criminalize injuring or killing a preborn child while committing certain federal crimes. These include drive-by shootings, assaulting federal officers, damaging religious property, murder or manslaughter, kidnapping, hostage taking, and racketeering. The bill states that "the punishment for that separate offense is the same as the punishment … for that conduct had that injury or death occurred to the unborn child's mother."
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Where there are crimes and crime victims, there should be criminal penalties and it's about time the law caught up with biology. The developmental life of each person reading this column (and everyone else on the planet, for that matter) began at their conception. Different labels -- embryo, infant, adolescent, senior -- identify different developmental stages of our lives, but each of us is the same living human being throughout. A criminal murdering a mother and the infant daughter in her arms commits two crimes. It is factually false, shockingly absurd, and morally twisted to say he commits only one crime if he had murdered the same woman a few months earlier, when the child was in her womb rather than in her arms. Two crimes should receive two punishments.
Even abortion advocates should strongly support this bill, at least if their rhetoric about women exercising reproductive choices is genuine. The same Supreme Court that created the abortion right in 1973 held in 1977 that choosing not to have an abortion is "at least as fundamental" as choosing to have one. Violent criminals who injure or kill a preborn child interfere with a woman's choice to give birth to the child that her fertility makes possible. Supporting a woman making that choice means supporting criminal penalties against those interfering with it.
Abortion advocates, however, strongly oppose this bill. They claim, for example, that it tries to do by stealth what cannot constitutionally be done in the open, that is, prosecuting abortionists. This argument vanishes upon simply reading the bill, which only applies to "whoever engages in conduct that violates any of the provisions of law listed" in the bill. The list does not include performing abortions. If that were not obvious enough, though, the bill also states, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the prosecution of any person for conduct relating to an abortion."
Abortion advocates really attack this bill for a more subtle, but more important, reason. They know that the only way to turn killing a child into a woman's right is to pretend the child is not there or that something else is in a mother's womb. When a pregnant woman wants an abortion, there's something to talk about beside the baby she does not want. When a pregnant woman does not want an abortion, however, there's nothing else to talk about but the baby she wants. Abortion advocates know that, by keeping the baby in the picture, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act may undermine the fraud that fuels their agenda.
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To perpetuate the fraud, abortion advocates will introduce, yes, killer amendments to the bill. One of them, pushed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., would substitute for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act a radically different bill, based on the biologically and morally false notion that a preborn child is part of her mother in the way an intestine or a polyp might be. It would impose an additional penalty if a crime "interferes with a pregnancy" but seeks to again ignore the child altogether. Such a fraudulent gimmick tries to ignore what half the states have recognized, that children can be crime victims before, as well as after, they are born.
On July 25, 2000, the House voted 417-0 for the Innocent Child Protection Act to deny federal funds for executing a woman carrying a child in utero. The bill defined a "child in utero" as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb." Yes, even Rep. Lofgren voted for it. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act contains the very same definition. Could there be anything more perverse than to say a child must be protected when her criminal mother is to be executed but need not be protected when her innocent mother is attacked by a criminal?
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act does what is badly needed in public policy and what abortion advocates seek to avoid more than anything. It tells the truth. A pregnant woman presents not one, but two, living human beings; indeed, the woman herself was once just like the child she carries and was no less alive, no less human, than she is today. Treating crime victims properly may well create moral dissonance between an abortionist killing a baby being a constitutional right and an uninvited attacker killing that same baby being a crime. So be it. That problem is not solved by perpetuating the fraud, suppressing both truth and morality, and letting criminals get away with murder.