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House of Representatives passes unborn victims bill, 254-163

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives easily passed legislation Feb. 26 that would recognize an unborn child as a crime victim when he or she is injured or slain during the commission of a crime against the mother.

The representatives voted 254-163 for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as Laci and Conner’s Law, H.R. 1997. A companion bill exists in the Senate, but that chamber has failed to act on the legislation after House passage in both 1999 and 2001. President Bush has indicated he will sign the bill if it arrives on his desk.

Forty-seven Democrats joined with 207 Republicans in voting for the measure.

The House passed the bill after defeating a substitute amendment by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D.-Calif., that would have stiffened penalties for a crime against a pregnant woman but would not have recognized the unborn child as a victim. The vote against Lofgren’s amendment was 229-186.

“Ultimately, the criminal law is not a schedule of punishments. It is an expression of society’s values,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R.-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on the House floor. “Anything less than the legislation before us today simply does not resonate with society’s sense of justice.”

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations support the bill.

Abortion-rights advocates oppose the measure, even though it exempts the performance of an abortion.

“[T]he consequences could easily be made more severe without creating legal rights for fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses, but anti-abortion forces refuse to consider these alternatives,” said National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta.

The House bill is named 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.

Rep. Melissa Hart, R.-Pa., is the chief sponsor of the House bill. The Senate version is S. 1019, with Sen. Mike DeWine, R.-Ohio, as its sponsor.

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