Unborn victims bill gains House panel's approval

WASHINGTON (BP)--A House of Representatives committee has pushed forward legislation that would recognize an unborn child as a crime victim when injured or slain during the commission of a crime against his mother.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 20-13 for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in action Jan. 21. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans in the majority.

Passage on the House floor is expected. The House approved the measure in both 1999 and 2001, but the Senate has never acted on it. President Bush has indicated he will sign the bill if it arrives on his desk.

Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the bill "promotes a compassionate and just society by punishing those criminals that target pregnant women and harm unborn children through violence."

Abortion-rights advocates oppose the measure, even though it exempts the performance of an abortion. NARAL Pro-choice America, a leading abortion-rights organization, has described the bill as a "sneak attack on a woman's right to choose."

However, Doug Johnson, the National Right to Life Committee's legislative director, said, "When a criminal attacks a woman and kills her unborn child, he has claimed two victims, and this bill would recognize that for federal crimes.

"The bill explicitly exempts abortion -- yet, pro-abortion advocacy groups have so far obstructed the bill in the Senate," Johnson said.

The House bill is H.R. 1997 and is sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Pa. The Senate version is S. 1019, with Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, its chief sponsor.

In the House, the bill is titled Laci and Conner's Law, after Laci Peterson and her unborn son who were killed in December 2002 allegedly by her husband, Scott. Sharon Rocha, Laci's mother, has urged Congress to adopt the measure.


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