Friday, April 25, 2003

The "Unborn Victims of Violence Act"

The anti-abortionists are at it again, and this time they are using public outrage over the murder of Laci Peterson in an attempt to federalize the killing of an unborn fetus. According to the AP, today the White House urged Congress to pass the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," which would amend the federal criminal code to create a separate offense if a defendant causes the death of, or bodily injury to an "unborn child" during the commission of a federal crime. The punishment for the separate offense would be the same as if the defendant had caused the death of, or injury to, the woman herself.

This is an dangerous proposal. Never mind that the Bush administration sees the need to federalize crimes that the states are more than capable of addressing. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights

By treating the "unborn child" as a separate and distinct victim of crime, the legislation would, for the first time, consider a fetus--and even a fertilized egg--an independent victim for purposes of federal law.

If a fetus, or a so-called "unborn child, at an earlier state of pregnancy, were later deemed entitled to the same legal protections as the woman, it would be impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion without violating the fetus's rights.

If a fetus, embryo, or other so-called "unborn child" is recognized as a "person" under the law, not only would the reproductive rights of women be eviscerated but a fetus--or even a zygote--could seek federal benefits, bring lawsuits, and otherwise claim civil rights.
I think that most murder and manslaughter laws are tough enough to punish those who murder a pregnant woman. And I think the penalty for assault is tough enough to accommodate those who cause the unwanted termination of the unborn fetus by attacking a pregnant woman. Creating special rights for fetuses separate and apart from the rights of the mother would be bad philosophy and bad law. Fetuses have no rights--rights belong only the women carrying them.

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