WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate finally will vote on a bill 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 a pregnant woman.
Majority Leader Bill Frist, R.-Tenn., gained agreement from the full Senate to bring the Unborn Victims of Violence Act to the floor for a vote, it was announced March 12. The Senate will consider the version of the bill approved in late February by the House of Representatives. It may vote as early as the week of March 22-26.
The House has passed the measure three times, but this will be the first time the Senate has voted on it. The House also approved the bill in 1999 and 2001.
President Bush has called on Congress to pass the bill.
Under the agreement won by Frist, the legislation cannot be filibustered. The bill, therefore, will require only a majority for passage, rather than the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.
Senate Democrats, however, will have the opportunity to offer two amendments that would, in essence, gut the bill. If those amendments are rejected and the bill is approved as passed in the House, it will go to the president to be signed into law.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, commended Frist “for his months of tireless work in winning this agreement.”
Sen. Mike DeWine, R.-Ohio, sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said, “It is just plain wrong that federal law does absolutely nothing to recognize that violent acts against unborn children are a crime. We are going to close this glaring loophole in our federal criminal code once and for all. This is a vote about justice for all of the victims of crime, including the unborn child.”
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations support the bill. Abortion-rights advocates, including many Democratic senators, oppose the measure, even though it exempts the performance of an abortion.
The House bill, H.R. 1997, is also known as Laci and Conner’s Law. It 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 House voted 254-163 for the legislation Feb. 26.