Unborn Victims of Violence Act
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act creates a federal law making it a crime to cause harm to a "child in utero," recognizing everything from a zygote to a fetus as an independent "victim," with legal rights distinct from the woman who has been attacked. More than 30 states already have similar laws on the books. In practice, these laws treat the pregnant woman as little more than collateral damage in an attack portrayed to the public as one directed against the fetus. Moreover, pregnant women in states with such laws are more likely to be punished for behaviors and conditions that are not criminally sanctioned for other members of society. In this section you will find commentary and analysis that discusses the harm to women, children, and communities from these laws.
Read Julie Burkhart's compelling and personal response to efforts to use the murder of a 14 year old pregnant girl as a basis for passing an Unborn Victims of Violence Act law in Kansas. (It is the commentary on the second page!)
Today, South Carolina's leading newspaper ran a commentary by two members of the South Carolina Women's Health Coalition, a coalition NAPW has been helping to support. KATHRYN LUCHOK AND SARAH GAREAU explain how the state's latest fetal rights bill purports to protect pregnant women, but actually undermines them.
By Lynn M. Paltrow is the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Published: April 02, 2004
After the Senate passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act last week, President George W. Bush, the same man who supports relaxing rules for fetus-poisoning mercury, wasted no time signing it into law. Most of those opposing the Act, from pro-choice leaders to The New York Times editorial board, charge that it will undermine the right to choose abortion. In fact, while this fear is indeed warranted, those who are most likely to be harmed by this law are not women seeking abortions, but women who want to continue their pregnancies to term.
The New York Times recently editorialized that the Unborn Victims of Violence Act is on "a dangerous path to fetal rights" that could send "the nation down a legal path that could undermine the privacy rights of women." South Carolina’s experience proves this to be true.