President Bush on Thursday signed into law the so-called Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The Senate passed the bill last week in a 61-38 vote, which grants separate legal rights to a zygote, embryo or fetus if harmed in a federal crime committed against a pregnant woman. This is the first federal law recognizing a fetus, at any stage of development, as having the same rights as the born, said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), making this bill widely viewed as an anti-abortion rights vote.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced an alternative measure (rejected 50-49) that would have imposed the same penalties as those prescribed in the bill, but without recognizing the fetus as a person and as a separate crime. “[This bill] will clearly place into federal law a definition of life that will chip away at the right to choose as outlined in Roe v. Wade,” said Feinstein in her testimony on the Senate floor.
The Feminist Majority joins other women’s organizations to oppose this bill – which is a loosely veiled attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, according to president Eleanor Smeal.
“The very fact that the majority in the Senate refused to vote for the exact same bill with one small change – not granting separate personhood to the fetus – shows that this legislation had nothing to do with protecting pregnant women, and everything to do with restricting women’s rights,” said Smeal. “This is all part of the attempt by the right-wing to stop women’s advancements, and to have legislation in place for when they capture the majority on the Supreme Court. This bill, along with others passed in states and federally, are traps waiting to be used to make abortion and birth control illegal.”
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