by Harry Niska
President Bush Signs Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004
It is now a separate federal crime to kill an unborn child in the process of committing a federal crime against that child's mother. President Bush's remarks at the signing can be found here
Bush said, in part:
[A]ny time an expectant mother is a victim of violence, two lives are in the balance, each deserving protection, and each deserving justice. If the crime is murder and the unborn child's life ends, justice demands a full accounting under the law.
Until today, the federal criminal code had been silent on the injury or death of a child in cases of violence against a pregnant woman. This omission in the law has led to clear injustices. The death of an innocent unborn child has too often been treated as a detail in one crime, but not a crime in itself. Police and prosecutors had been to crime scenes and have shared the grief of families, but have so often been unable to seek justice for the full offense. The American people, as well, have learned of these cases, and they urged action. The swift bipartisan passage of this bill through Congress this year indicates a strong consensus that the suffering of two victims can never equal only one offense.
The moral concern of humanity extends to those unborn children who are harmed or killed in crimes against their mothers. And now, the protection of federal law extends to those children, as well. With this action, we widen the circle of compassion and inclusion in our society, and we reaffirm that the United States of America is building a culture of life.
William Saletan has a good essay at Salon
about why this bill is significant in establishing the independent human value of the unborn.
Each time pro-lifers have tried in recent years to treat the embryo or fetus as a person in one context or another, pro-choicers have responded by treating the fetus as a nonentity. When pro-lifers sought to ban human cloning, pro-choicers offered a counterproposal that would require the destruction of every cloned embryo—which they referred to only as "an unfertilized blastocyst" and "the product of nuclear transplantation"—within two weeks of its creation. When pro-lifers sought to make fetuses eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, pro-choicers offered a counterproposal to expand the program's eligibility guidelines "as if any reference to targeted low-income children were a reference to targeted low-income pregnant women." The pro-choice alternative made no reference to the gestated entity until it was "born."
It's a strategy of denial. And this week, it ran into too much reality.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., displayed a devastating series of pictures of murdered women accompanied by the viable fetuses who died with them. "The question is simple," Brownback told his colleagues. "Do we have one victim or two involved in violent crimes such as these?" In one case, Brownback pleaded, "Look at this photo again of Christina and Ashley in the coffin. Is there one victim? Or are there two?" In another case, Brownback noted that the woman survived, but the fetus died. "Any congressman who votes for the 'one-victim' amendment is really saying that nobody died that night," said Brownback, referring to the Feinstein alternative. "And that is a lie."