WASHINGTON (March 18, 2004) -— Cardinal William Keeler, Chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged the Senate to pass S. 1019, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The bill would recognize unborn children as second victims when their mothers are victims of federal crimes of violence. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation as early as next week.
"When a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed, and her unborn child is harmed or killed as a result, the crime has two victims—the woman and her child," Cardinal Keeler said. "Without this new law, when a pregnant woman is herself the victim of a federal crime, any resulting injury to her unborn child—harm to which the woman obviously has not consented—goes unpunished."
The majority of states recognize and redress prenatal injury or death resulting from violence inflicted upon a pregnant woman. S. 1019 explicitly excludes abortion.
"It is disappointing that some insist the bill should be defeated to somehow preserve a 'right' to abortion," the Cardinal continued. "This bill simply ensures that both mother and child are protected from violent assault and murder."
The Senate is scheduled to debate two amendments to S. 1019, a "single-victim" substitute by Senator Feinstein and a lengthy amendment on domestic violence programs by Senator Murray.
"Substitute language that recognizes only the harm done to the woman but not to her child—the 'single-victim' approach—is unfair to mothers and families who grieve the loss of their unborn children," Cardinal Keeler stated. "As Sharon Rocha, mother of Laci Peterson and grandmother of Connor, reminds us: 'There were two bodies that washed up in San Francisco Bay, and the law should recognize that reality.'"
"I urge you to pass S. 1019 and to oppose any amendment that would nullify its intent or impede its enactment," the Cardinal said.