- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

When a California jury convicted Scott Peterson for the murders of his wife, Laci, and unborn son, Conner, on Friday, the celebrity trial that involved no celebrities came to a pleasing, if overdue, end. Any double-murder trial is serious business, but at times it seemed as if the five-month ordeal played out like a bad soap opera. That said, we disagree with Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, who told USA Today that the trial “doesn’t have any inherent significance” and was “just a tabloid tale.” In fact, the reverberations of the Peterson trial began nearly a year ago and will be felt for some time.

For once, the media circus that surrounded the proceedings did some good. The daily reports and cable news coverage always separated Mrs. Peterson’s death from Conner’s, perhaps because the Petersons’ unborn child had a name. Pro-life activists and Washington conservatives rightly took advantage of the publicity by pushing ahead with the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which grants legal status to unborn children killed during the commission of a federal crime. In April, three months before Peterson went to trial, President Bush signed the legislation, already dubbed “Laci and Conner’s Law.” Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha, also acted as a key lobbyist for the bill and stood beside Mr. Bush at the signing ceremony. It’s safe to assume then that the swarming coverage of the upcoming trial helped pass the legislation.

To be sure, the usual suspects, namely Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women, decried not only the passage of the legislation, but also the status given to the slain Conner — and for good reason. Giving an unborn child the same legal status on a federal level as a person does indeed create problems for the pro-choice lobby’s argument.

Pursuant to California law, the jury convicted Peterson of second-degree murder in the death of Conner. This time around, however, the pro-choice lobbyists have kept tellingly silent — again, for good reason. It wouldn’t much help their cause to condemn the second-degree murder conviction, as Laci unequivocally wanted Conner. At the same time, you won’t hear them praising the conviction either, lest they reveal the depths of their own hypocrisy. As the adage goes, the silence is deafening. Thus has the Peterson trial propelled the necessity for protecting the unborn back into the public domain.

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