WASHINGTON - January 22 - The House Judiciary Committee's partisan 20-13 vote to send H.R. 1997, the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," to the full House for a vote is another backdoor attempt by anti-choice members of Congress to roll back reproductive choice. This legislation would create a separate criminal offense for causing the death or injury of an embryo or fetus in any state of development. By recognizing the embryo or fetus as a separate legal person, the legislation could erode the foundation of Roe v. Wade and threaten a woman's right to choose.
"Anti-choice ideologues in Congress will do anything to erode women's constitutionally protected privacy and reproductive rights," said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation. "In this case, they are taking the noble cause of protecting women from violence and turning it into a threat to women's fundamental rights."
The members of the House Judiciary Committee rejected alternative legislation that could protect women from violence while also sustaining women's constitutionally protected reproductive rights. The committee rejected "The Motherhood Protection Act," offered as a substitute by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), which would create a separate criminal offense for federal crimes against pregnant women, without establishing the embryo or fetus as an individual legal entity. This bill would authorize additional harsh penalties for violence against a pregnant woman - up to 20 years when an embryo or fetus is injured and up to life in prison if a pregnancy is terminated - but it would not establish separate legal rights for the unborn embryo or fetus. The Committee also rejected an amendment offered by Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) which would have added language stating that nothing in H.R. 1997 could be construed to diminish a woman's right to choose as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
"Victims of violence should not be pawns for the right-wing ideologues in Congress," added Neas. "Women deserve to be fully protected by the law, including harsher punishment for individuals who inflict harm on pregnant women, and the full backing of the Constitution when they make personal decisions about their health and families."