Senate Votes to Make Harming a Fetus a Crime

WaPo/AP: Senate Votes to Make Harming a Fetus a Crime

The Senate voted Thursday to make it a separate crime to harm a fetus during commission of a violent federal crime, a victory for those seeking to expand the legal rights of the unborn.

The 61-38 vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act sends the legislation, after a five-year battle in Congress, to President Bush for his signature. The White House said in a statement that it “strongly supports protection for unborn children.” The House passed the bill last month.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the bill was “powerful because this act is about simple humanity, about simple reality.”

But abortion rights lawmakers contended that giving a fetus, from the point of conception, the same legal rights as its mother sets a precedent that could be used in future legal challenges to abortion rights.

No kidding. It’s rather strange to make it a crime to hurt a fetus but simultaneously enshrine the right to murder it in the Constitution. The distinction–that one is an externality and the other a conscious decision by an erstwhile “mother”–is probably adequate to pass legal muster, even if it seems irrelevant from a moral standpoint, given that the victim has no say in either case.

And this is interesting:

The Senate cleared the way for passage with a 50-49 vote to defeat an amendment, backed by opponents of the bill, that would have increased penalties for harm to a pregnant woman but did not attempt to define when human life begins.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., President Bush’s opponent this fall, interrupted his campaign schedule to vote yes on the amendment. He voted no on final passage.

To quote Ronald Reagan, “There he goes again.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ryan says:

    Is there a link about who voted how?

  2. Jim says:

    I am sad to say that this is one of the times he is not flip-flopping and is actually an astute move by Kery. He voted for an ammendment that the pro-choice crowed loved (allowing him to continue to pander to them) but when that was defeated he voted against the bill (to continue the pander…of course with explaniations about how this bill endangers a woman’s right to choose). For those who agree with the bill he can exclaim he was for it but after the ohh so vital ammendment protecting a woman’s right to choose he was forced to veto it after the right-wingers decided not advance their agenda. At least he is somewhat consistant this time…too bad he is who he is.

  3. whatever says:

    Yeah, he can say he was for it before he was against it. Which goes for just about everything under the sun.

  4. Leo says:

    Why is this a federal issue at all? Murder has traditionally been a state crime.