March 1, 2004
I write to urge you to vote for S. 1019, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2003 (also known in the House of Representatives as Laci and Conner's Law) and to oppose any substitute that would nullify its intent.
S. 1019 protects unborn children whose mothers are physically assaulted, beaten, maimed, or murdered in violation of specified provisions of the federal criminal code. Surprisingly, 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 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.
S. 1019 explicitly excludes abortion. Therefore it is all the more disappointing that some insist the bill should nonetheless be defeated to somehow preserve a "right" to abortion. This bill simply ensures that both mother and child are protected from violent assault and murder.
Opponents of S. 1019 may try to nullify it by offering substitute language, recognizing only the harm done to the woman but not to her child. Such a "single-victim" approach is unfair to mothers and families who grieve the loss of their unborn children. As Sharon Rocha, mother of Laci Peterson and grandmother of Conner, reminds us: "There were two bodies that washed up in San Francisco Bay, and the law should recognize that reality."
Please consider this issue on its merits and vote for S. 1019.
Cardinal William H. Keeler
Committee for Pro-Life Activities
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops