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Fetal Protection

Posted by ssbg on January 26, 2006

From: Americans United for Life                 0016-1.jpg

Crimes Against Unborn Children 
In the past two years, several important laws seeking to protect unborn children from the criminal acts of third parties were considered or enacted by federal and state lawmakers. At the federal level, in 2001, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Under this law, an assailant who injures or kills an unborn child during the commission of an existing federal crime of violence, may be charged with a second offense on behalf of the second victim, the unborn child. This bill recognizes that when a criminal attacks a pregnant woman, and injures or kills her unborn child, he has claimed two human victims. It applies this “two-victim principle” to existing federal laws relating to areas of exclusive and concurrent federal jurisdiction including military installations, to the protection of federal officials, and to specific acts defined by law as federal crimes. The Act is still awaiting debate and action by the Senate. Review HR 503, passed the House of Representatives in April 2001 and still awaiting action by the Senate.

In 2002, Idaho and Nebraska, with assistance from AUL counsel, enacted fetal homicide laws. These laws define an unborn child as a “person? under the state’s existing homicide laws, allowing prosecutors to charge criminals when their actions result in the death of an unborn child regardless of the child’s gestational age at the time of the assault. Twenty-nine states have now criminalized the killing of an unborn child, while 10 states have also criminalized non-fatal assaults against unborn children. The Model Legislation and Policy Guide discusses the legal implications of these laws and provides a summary of existing state laws.

Although fetal homicide laws are typically opposed by abortion proponents who frequently claim that they violate or undermine the legal principles established in Roe v. Wade, no fetal homicide law has ever been declared unconstitutional. However, challenges to the constitutionality of fetal homicide laws in Utah and Michigan were lodged in 2002.

Clearly, fetal protection laws establish much needed legal protection for unborn children. While such laws do not directly impact abortion, they do cultivate an awareness of the value and rights of unborn children and foster public support for the protection of unborn children. The potential impact of these laws is significant. For example, in October 2002, a Michigan appellate court, relying on the public policy promoted by the state’s existing fetal homicide law, determined that a pregnant women, in certain circumstances, may use “deadly force? to protect her unborn child from an assault by a third party.


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