Sunday, April 04, 2004
Unborn Victims of Violence Act (passed by Congress and signed by President Bush last week): anyone who injures or "causes the death" of a "child in utero" during a violent federal crime will get the same punishment "provided under Federal law for that conduct had that injury or death occurred to the unborn child's mother." The bill defines a "child in utero" as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb." Once enacted, the law will double the penalty for anyone who harms or kills a fetus in the course of beating or killing a pregnant woman. Further, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the prosecution … of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman, or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf, has been obtained." [Plagiarism alert: every part of the preceding paragraph was lifted from various sections of this Slate article by William Saletan]
Some abortion rights supporters opposed this bill on the grounds that it could be used to chip away at the Roe vs. Wade decision and eventually make abortion illegal. I think that’s a mistake.
Abortion rights supporters always use the ‘language of choice;’ pro-choice (not pro-abortion), a woman’s right to choose, etc. But a woman who is assaulted and beaten and loses her baby as a result did not make a choice. She had it taken away from her.
If it’s immoral to force a woman to have a baby (by denying her the right to an abortion), isn’t it also immoral to prevent a woman from having a baby by forcing her to have an abortion? Isn’t that essentially what’s happened in the assault scenario? Only a pregnant woman can decide to abort her pregnancy. Only a pregnant woman can decide not to abort her pregnancy. [Ideally, of course, there’d be a man and a woman making the decision together. Ideally there’d be no unwanted pregnancies at all and so no abortions either, but we know reality.]
Slippery-slope arguments do not impress me. I fall well within the pro-choice camp, but when a pregnancy is ended by violence (and there have been a number of such cases recently, the Laci Peterson incident is only the most well known) the pain caused goes far beyond that of an assault victim; the grief experienced by expecting parents is the same as that of actual parents who lose a child. While the proposed amendment to this bill, which would merely have altered the wording, not the content, may have been preferable to those Senators who are pro-choice, the bill in either form is a good one.
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