Unborn Victims of Violence Act

 

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R. 503) passed the House and has been placed on the Senate’s legislative calendar. The Senate companion bill (S. 480) is pending in Judiciary Committee.

Background: This legislation provides that an individual who injures or kills an unborn child during the commission of certain federal crimes–68 are referenced in the bill–will be guilty of a separate offense. This bill does not apply to abortion conduct, to medical treatment, or to any woman’s action affecting her unborn child. The term “child in utero” is defined as “a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.” Pro-abortion advocates object to any reference to the unborn child as a separate existing being. However, in 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Missouri law providing that the “life of each human being begins at conception” and “unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and wellbeing.” In testimony before Congress Notre Dame Law Professor Gerard Bradley noted: “Congress is as free as the state of Missouri to conclude and enforce outside the parameters of Roe its view that life begins at conception.” Twenty-four states already have laws that recognize unborn children as crime victims. These laws have withstood challenges in the courts. In the 106th Congress this legislation passed the House but did not go beyond the hearings stage in the Senate.

House: On February 7, 2001, Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R. 503). The bill was referred to the Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee and to the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. The measure had 101 cosponsors.

Committee: On March 15, 2001, the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held hearings. On March 21, the subcommittee by voice vote favorably reported the bill without amendment. On March 28, the full committee also favorably approved the bill (15 yes, 9 no). The committee defeated (13 yes, 20 no) a substitute amendment offered by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) that would eliminate explicit reference to the unborn child and redefine the offense as harm to the pregnant woman.

Floor: On April 26, 2001, during floor consideration of H.R. 503, the full House rejected the Lofgren substitute amendment, 196-yes, 229-no, 7-not voting (Roll Call 88). The House then passed H.R. 503, 252-yes, 172-no, 1-present, 7-not voting (Roll Call 89).

Senate: On March 7, 2001, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) reintroduced the Senate version of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (S. 480). This bill has 13 cosponsors. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee. On June 8, the House-passed bill, H.R. 503, was read the second time and placed on the Senate’s legislative calendar.

Status: The Unborn Victims of Violence Act passed the House and that bill (H.R. 503) has been placed on the Senate’s legislative calendar. The Senate companion bill (S. 480) is pending in Judiciary Committee.