WASHINGTON (September 8, 1999) -- Gail Quinn, Executive Director of the Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, urged the House Judiciary Committee to support H.R. 2436, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The bill protects unborn children whose mothers are physically assaulted, beaten, maimed, or murdered in violation of specified provisions of the federal criminal code.
In a Sept. 8 letter to members of the committee, which will soon vote on the legislation, Ms. Quinn recalled that witnesses before the Subcommittee on the Constitution recounted in moving testimony how unborn children have been injured or killed during the commission of a federal crime against the mother. Yet such injuries or death have gone unpunished. "This makes no moral or legal sense," she said.
The Bishops' Conference official noted that, in contrast to the federal government, the vast majority of states recognize and redress prenatal injury or death resulting from violence inflicted upon a pregnant woman. Thirty-eight states currently recognize the humanity and legal status of unborn children outside the abortion context.
Contrary to a claim made by some opponents of the legislation that H.R.2436 is "antithetical to the findings" of Roe v. Wade, the legislation does not affect legal abortion, Ms. Quinn stated. In defining a woman's "right" to make abortion decisions, the Court said it was in no position to resolve "the difficult question of when life begins." Moreover, the Court later upheld a Missouri law declaring that human life begins at conception, noting that such a law is perfectly constitutional as long as it is not used to restrict abortion. "Clearly, even under current Supreme Court jurisprudence, Congress as well as the states may recognize the humanity of unborn children in contexts other than abortion," Ms. Quinn wrote.
"It is disappointing that some claim this bill should nonetheless be defeated to preserve a 'right' to abortion," Ms. Quinn continued. "Even many abortion proponents have conceded that abortion takes a human life, while demanding that the practice be preserved to protect a woman's 'right to choose.' This bill, however, offers an opportunity to protect the unborn child in a way that clearly serves the freedom and well-being of his or her mother, by protecting both parties from violent assault and murder. To oppose such much-needed legislation, simply because it acknowledges a truth about unborn life that almost everyone already knows anyway, would be a terrible injustice."
"The Unborn Victims of Violence Act will enable the federal government to recognize that when a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed within its jurisdiction, and her unborn child is harmed or killed as a result, the crime has two victims--the woman and her child," Ms. Quinn stated. "This is a common sense and compassionate approach, consistent with government's responsibility to protect human life, born as well as unborn."