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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Unborn Victims of Violence Act criticized from both sides

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Recent passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a measure declaring violence against a fetus a separate federal crime from violence perpetrated against a pregnant woman, has sparked outrage and criticism from both pro-choice and pro-life sources.

Last month Congress passed the bill with a 61 to 38 vote in the Senate and a 254 to 163 vote in the House, and President Bush signed the act into law April 1.

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Although the bill does not prohibit pregnant women from aborting their fetus if they so choose, the legislation does give unborn children increased rights by recognizing their right to life after an act of violence is taken against the mother, such as inflicting injury on the fetus by harming the mother. For many pro-choice activists, the legislation marks another step in the crusade to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“[The act] is yet another way to chip away at women’s rights,” said Rosalyn Levy Jonas, national board member for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The bill includes a definition of when life begins for an unborn child, unnerving supporters of a woman’s right to choose because supporters feel it could eventually lead to legal recognition of a fetus as a life.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., proposed an amendment to the bill that would still mandate a harsher punishment for violent acts committed against pregnant women but would not define when fetal life begins as part of the law. Many Democrats in the Senate, including Feinstein, believe that passing this recent bill could lead to infringements on the larger issue of freedom of choice.

On the other side of the debate, pro-life proponents argue the new legislation does not go far enough. Some argue it may reinforce Roe v. Wade by differentiating the rights of wanted unborn children from the rights of fetuses that are unwanted by their mothers.

“It makes an exception for abortion,” Matt Sande, legislative director of Pro-Life Wisconsin said. “Unborn babies’ rights are contingent on the desires of their mothers.”

Sande said he will not be satisfied until all babies “are constitutionally protected just like any other American.” He named a human-life amendment as the only acceptable legislation concerning fetal rights.

“We want to extend personhood … to every pre-born child, and that should not be contingent on anyone. Those are inalienable rights endowed by our creator,” Sande said.

Yet despite his criticisms of the Fetal Protection Act, Sande said it is good to see some rights being extended to unborn children.

“We are encouraged that the majority of the U.S. Congress and the president say that pre-born babies should have rights,” Sande said.

President Bush signed legislation outlawing partial-birth abortions last November, despite a previous Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Nebraska ban on the practice. The legislation bypassed the Court’s ruling, using the argument that a mother’s life is never at risk when partial-birth abortions are used, which was the major qualm of the justices against the Nebraska law.

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