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House vote would prohibit executions of pregnant women

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives approved without opposition July 25 a ban on executions of pregnant women.

The House voted 417-0 for the Innocent Child Protection Act, which would block any U.S. jurisdiction from carrying out a death sentence on a woman carrying a child “at any stage of development.” The bill would extend to the states a prohibition on federal executions that was adopted by Congress in 1994.

The bill is in line with a provision in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty the United States agreed to in 1976.

The principle of protecting an innocent child in the womb of a woman facing the death penalty was contradicted recently by Vice President Al Gore. After being asked on “Meet the Press” July 16 about his position concerning the federal ban on executing a pregnant woman, Gore said the next day he favored permitting a woman to decide whether to be executed while pregnant. “The principle of a woman’s right to choose governs in that case,” he said, according to The New York Times.

Supporters of the bill denied charges it was unnecessary. They pointed to a June comment on the House floor by a pro-choice congresswoman, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D.-Calif., who said women become pregnant in prison by rape or sexual relations with guards.

“I applaud the House of Representatives for extending this legal protection to innocent human life in the womb,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“It continues to be a supreme irony and an eloquent testimony to the huge blind spot that is abortion in American society that the Supreme Court could uphold the right of a mother to kill her partially born child while at the same time Congress acts to extend legal protection to an unborn child whose mother is to be executed and in a majority of states a person who causes fatal injury to an unborn child in the process of committing another crime is charged with a crime.

“Evidently the determinative difference that at the moment marks the supreme value of the Supreme Court is that if the mother chooses to kill her child her right to choose must be protected at all costs,” Land said. “Hopefully that will increasingly become totally unacceptable to the American people. I urge all Christians to join me in a prayer of thanksgiving for the House’s action to defend life and to pray for God’s intercession to reverse the Supreme Court’s shameful and immoral position.”

In late June, the high court struck down a state prohibition on partial-birth abortion. That procedure, normally performed in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy, involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the baby’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull enables easier removal of the dead child.