What follows is a selection of reactions to the final congressional approval of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act ("Laci and Conner’s Law") by the U.S. Senate on March 25 and the signing of the bill by President Bush on April 1, 2004.
Supporters of the law
Congresswoman Melissa Hart (R-Pa.), chief House sponsor of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act: President Bush’s signature on "Laci and Conner’s Law" will close a gap that has existed in federal law for too long. I am grateful that we were able to get this done – to bring to justice those who inflict terrible pain and loss on families around the nation.
House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.): There are many people who fought very hard over the last five years to get this bill to the president’s desk – most importantly, the families of the victims. These families understand the value of human life, and the tragedy of loss. They understand that all victims of crime deserve justice.
Cathy Cleaver Ruse, spokesperson for the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities: We applaud the President for bringing justice to women and their children who are victims of violent crime. Thanks to him, and to a bipartisan majority of Congress, a woman who loses her child to a brutal attacker in a federal jurisdiction will no longer be told that she has lost nothing. The new law exempts abortion, but the abortion lobby fought it anyway, because it commits the unpardonable pro-choice sin: In the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, it recognizes that a child in utero is "a human being."
James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family: [The act] affirms in law what is common sense to more than 80 percent of Americans -- there are two victims in violent crimes committed against pregnant women and their pre-born children.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: It is another reminder that we are slowly but surely winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public when it comes to the personhood of unborn human beings.
Opponents of the law
Democratic National Committee (press release): The "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" the president signs today will weaken women’s constitutional rights by giving separate legal personhood to a fetus, equal to that of the pregnant woman, thus attempting to undermine the legal basis for the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women: Giving a fetus – even an embryo – the same legal rights as the pregnant woman will undermine the right to abortion as guaranteed under Roe v. Wade. . . Any injury inflicted on a woman, pregnant or not, should be prosecuted as a crime against the woman.
Kate Michelman, president of "NARAL Pro-Choice America": [President Bush] is making good on his pledge to do everything in his power to restrict a woman's right to choose. . . . [this is a precedent] anti-choice leaders could use to argue for overturning Roe v. Wade, something that will be a lot easier for them if Bush gets the chance he's longing for to name new justices to the Supreme Court.
The American Civil Liberties Union: [This is] the first federal law to recognize a fetus at any stage of development, from conception forward, as an independent "victim" of a crime with legal rights distinct from the woman who has been harmed by a violent criminal act.
Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA): It is part of a deceptive anti-choice strategy to make women's bodies mere vessels by creating legal personhood for the fetus.
CNN political analyst Bill Schneider (April 2): What clinched their [bill supporters’] case was a threat from Laci’s mother [Sharon Rocha]. "Politicians say Conner was not really the victim of a crime," said Rocha. "They need to think long and hard about whether or not they really want to say that. If Laci and Conner’s law is not enacted this year, I will keep fighting for it. I will not hesitate to explain the issue to their voters." It worked. The crime issue trumped the abortion issue.
William Saletan, chief political writer, Slate: On the Senate floor, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, displayed a devastating series of pictures of murdered women accompanied by the viable fetuses who died with them. "The question is simple," Brownback told his colleagues. "Do we have one victim or two involved in violent crimes such as these?" In one case, Brownback pleaded, "Look at this photo again of Christina and Ashley in the coffin. Is there one victim? Or are there two?" In another case, Brownback noted that the woman survived, but the fetus died. "Any [senator] who votes for the ‘one-victim’ amendment is really saying that nobody died that night," said Brownback, referring to the Feinstein alternative. "And that is a lie."
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