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House Subcommittee to Vote on Fetal Protection Legislation

Republican Rep. Lindsey Graham (SC) has introduced a bill that would grant a fetus “legal recognition under federal law.”

The bill is called the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” and would “impose criminal penalties on people who injure or kill a child who is in utero at the time by subjecting them to the same punishment provided under federal law for that conduct had that injury or death occurred to the unborn child’s mother.”

The legislation does not include cases of consensual abortion or when the fetus is injured during medical treatment. However, even thought Graham insists that the bill is to protect the interests of the unborn child and of women, if the measure passes, it would provide an opportunity to introduce further legislation that would curtail a woman’s rights over her body. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) noted that “The concept of the fetus as an entity with legal rights, independent of the woman, makes it possible to create future legal rights that could be used against the interests of the mother.”

Proponents of the bill, such as the Family Research Council, argue that legislation such as this “punishes offenders for injuring or killing an unborn child during acts already defined as federal crimes.”

A House Judiciary Subcommittee is expected to take action on this legislation before the August recess.

Sources:

Kaiser Family Reproductive Health Report - July 22, 1999