GOP Offers Fetal Protection Bill
The House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution yesterday began reviewing a bill that would make it a federal crime to harm or kill a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman, a measure abortion-rights supporters and opponents say "signal[s] the beginning of an effort to capitalize on President Bush's election" with a "coordinated campaign" to restrict abortion, the Washington Post reports (Eilperin, Washington Post, 3/16). The Unborn Victims of Violence Act (HR 503) would apply to the injury of a fetus at any stage of gestation, and to attackers who may not be aware of the pregnancy. Bill sponsor Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that the legislation is intended to protect the fetus and to provide prosecutors with "an added tool to punish brutal crimes against pregnant women." But the subcommittee's ranking minority member, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), said, "The real purpose [of the bill] is to establish a doctrine, contrary to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, that the fetus is a separate person. This is driven by the politics of abortion rather than the substantive effort to fight violence against women" (Washington Post, 3/16). In the Senate, Republicans led by Sen. Mike DeWine (Ohio) have introduced an identical bill (SB 480) (Scully, Washington Times, 3/16). The full Judiciary Committee may vote on the measure next week, and it is "widely" expected to pass the House, despite Democratic opposition (Washington Post, 3/16). If passed this session, the legislation would follow 11 states that already enforce fetal protection laws (Washington Times, 3/16).
The fetal rights bills are among several upcoming measures that touch on the abortion debate, the Post reports. Antiabortion lawmakers say that "in the coming months" they will "seek to impose incremental restrictions on abortion while averting a direct confrontation over women's constitutional rights to obtain the procedure," including a restriction prohibiting anyone but a parent from transporting a minor over state lines for abortion, limitations on the administration of mifepristone and a ban on "partial-birth" abortion. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, "There's some significant opportunity to complete some issues where not only members of Congress, but the majority of people in the country, are on the same side." Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said, "The landscape is full of land mines now that are potentially quite lethal in terms of a woman's right to choose" (Washington Post, 3/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.