- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

Legislation that would make it a crime to kill or injure a fetus while committing certain federal offenses against the mother received a strong endorsement yesterday from the family of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Conner.”This bill is very close to our hearts,” read a letter signed by the slain woman’s parents and siblings. “We have not only lost our future with our daughter and sister, but with our grandson and nephew as well.”Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, yesterday said he plans to bring the bill straight to the Senate floor instead of putting it through his committee, where it could get “bogged down.”“Knowing that perpetrators who murder pregnant women will pay the price not only for the loss of the mother, but the baby as well, will help bring justice for these victims and hopefully act as a deterrent to those considering such heinous acts,” read the letter by Mrs. Peterson’s family, which has asked that the proposal be named “Laci and Conner’s Law.”Prosecutors in California have charged Scott Peterson, 30, with separate counts of murder in the deaths of Mrs. Peterson, 27, and Conner, whose decomposing bodies were found in Richmond, Calif., April 13 and April 14 on rocks above the high-tide marks of San Francisco Bay.Under California law, intentionally killing a fetus is murder, with an exception for surgical abortions. About half the states have similar laws, but there is no equivalent in federal law, which recognizes a crime only against the pregnant woman, not her unborn child.Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican, is the Senate sponsor of the bill designed to close that gap. Rep. Melissa A. Hart, Pennsylvania Republican, is sponsoring the companion bill in the House. “This gap in the law leads to glaring injustices because current law only recognizes one victim when a pregnant woman is attacked or murdered,” Mr. DeWine said. “Clearly there are two victims in these crimes. … We must close this loophole.”The House has passed the bill twice, and probably will again this year. The Senate has never considered the measure, but Mr. Hatch and other supporters say they are confident the Senate will pass it.The legislation would make it a separate crime to hurt a fetus at any stage of pregnancy during the commission of federal crimes of violence, crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or crimes committed on federal land. The proposal would exclude legal abortion.Under the proposal, the perpetrator would not have to know that the woman was pregnant when he acted with criminal intent.Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, yesterday criticized the bill and the lawmakers who are pushing for it in light of the Peterson case.”It is a sad statement that antichoice leaders are willing to use a family’s tragedy to continue their campaign to steadily take away a woman’s right to choose,” she said in a statement.House Democrats have in the past offered an alternative proposal that would increase the penalty for injuring a pregnant woman but would not allow separate charges for fetal harm. But Ms. Michelman said “antichoice leaders will not pass it.”

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