Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Today, the House is expected to take up — and pass — legislation that would protect an unborn child from the deliberate assault of anyone but a doctor. Despite the irony of outlawing such violent actions from anyone but an alleged caregiver, Congress should still send the Unborn Victims of Violence Act to the president.

The bill has also been called Laci and Conner’s Law, at the request of Sharon Rocha, the mother and grandmother-to-be of Laci Peterson and her unborn son Connor, who were both slain in late 2002. The act would make it a crime to cause the death of, or bodily injury to, an in utero child. It exempts from prosecution mothers of unborn children and their medical providers, including abortionists. The bill would not create a new category of crime. Rather, it would establish that there are two victims of violent actions perpetuated upon society’s most vulnerable — pregnant women and their unborn children.

Twenty-nine states already have some form of unborn victim protection act on the books. Ten others have such legislation under consideration, including Virginia, whose legislature sent feticide legislation to Gov. Mark Warner earlier this week.

There are many reasons for federal lawmakers to follow suit. At the moment, murdering an unborn child on federal property is the legal equivalent to breaking an individual’s nose in a barroom brawl. Yet an expectant mother is carrying far more than a nose or a finger. She is carrying an extraordinary gift.

A person who destroys that gift is nothing less than a murderer. Congress should recognize it as such. The Senate could take up its version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine, as early as next week. The bill, which is little different from that under House consideration, has 19 cosponsors, but it has not been whipped, so prospects for passage are still uncertain. In a letter to a constituent in June, Sen. Tom Daschle indicated that he would support the two-victims approach essential to the measure, while in a recent statement Sen. John Kerry indicated that he would not do so.

Mr. Kerry and others opposed to the bill claim that it would restrict abortion rights. However, that seems unlikely considering the bill’s explicit exception for abortion.

A Newsweek poll last May found that more than 80 percent of Americans think that the killer of a pregnant woman and her unborn child should face two charges of murder. Clearly, President Bush agrees, since he has promised to sign the measure. Congress should give him the opportunity to do so.

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