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Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2003

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

UNBORN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE ACT OF 2003

Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I rise today to speak, once again, on behalf of unborn children. Unborn children are the silent victims of violent crimes. Today, along with my distinguished colleagues, Senator Graham of South Carolina, Senator Voinovich, Senator Brownback, Senator Ensign, Senator Enzi, Senator Inhofe, Senator Nickles, Senator Santorum, and Senator Fitzgerald, we will once again introduce the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would hold victims liable for conduct that injures or kills an unborn child by creating a separate Federal offense for unborn children. I thank my colleagues for their support in this effort. I want to recognize especially Senator Graham of South Carolina who championed this cause so successfully last year on the House side. He has worked tirelessly to see that the most vulnerable in our society are in fact protected.

Mr. President, our bill, which is similar to the legislation that we sponsored in the 106th and 107th Congresses, would establish new criminal penalties for anybody injuring or killing a fetus while committing certain Federal offenses. Therefore, this bill would make the death or injury of an unborn child during the commission of certain existing Federal crimes a separate crime under Federal law and under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Mr. President, 26 of our States already have criminalized the killing and injuring of unborn victims during a crime. Our bill, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, simply acknowledges that violent acts against unborn babies are also criminal when the assailant is committing a Federal crime.

We live in a violent world and, sadly, sometimes—perhaps more often than we realize—even unborn babies are the targets, intended or otherwise, of violent acts. Let me give some very disturbing examples.

In 1996, airman Gregory Robbins and his family were stationed in my home State of Ohio at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. At that time, Mrs. Robbins was more than 8 months pregnant with a daughter who they named Jasmine. On September 12, 1996, in a fit of rage, Airman Robbins wrapped his fist in a T-shirt and savagely beat his wife by striking her repeatedly about the head and the abdomen. Fortunately, Mrs. Robbins survived the violent assault. Tragically, her uterus ruptured during the attack, expelling the baby into her abdominal cavity, causing Jasmine's death.

Air Force prosecutors sought to prosecute Airman Robbins for Jasmine's death, but found that neither the Uniform Code of Military Justice nor the Federal code makes criminal such an act which results in the death or injury of an unborn child. No Federal law covered that act. The only available Federal offense was for the simple assault on the mother. This was a case in which the only available Federal penalty simply did not fit the crime.

Now, fortunately, Ohio had at the time, and still does, a fetal homicide act. So Federal prosecutors were able to bootstrap the Ohio fetal homicide law under the Federal law to convict Airman Robbins of Jasmine's death. Upon appeal, the Federal appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling.

Mr. President, if it hadn't been for the Ohio law that was already in place, there would have been no opportunity for the
Federal prosecutors to prosecute and punish Airman Robbins for the assault against baby Jasmine. That is one reason we need a Federal remedy to avoid having to bootstrap Federal laws to provide recourse when a violent act occurs during the commission of a Federal crime. If this had been a crime that occurred on a Federal enclave in a State that did not have a similar law—and there are 24 States that don't—there would have been no remedy, and there is no remedy today. Federal prosecutors have no remedy in those situations today. Our bill would rectify that.

A Federal remedy will ensure that crime within Federal jurisdictions against unborn victims are, in fact, punished. Our bill also ensures that if certain Federal crimes are committed anywhere in the United States and they result in the death of a child, Federal prosecutors will be able to file charges.

Let me give you another example of another tragedy. In August 1999, Shiwona Pace of Little Rock, AR, was days away from giving birth. She was thrilled about her pregnancy, but her boyfriend, Eric Bullock, did not share the joy and enthusiasm. In fact, Eric wanted the baby to die. So he hired three thugs to beat his girlfriend so badly that she lost the unborn child. According to Shiwona, who testified in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing we held in Washington in February of 2000:

I begged and pleaded for the life of my unborn child, but they showed me no mercy. In fact, one of them told me, "your baby is dying tonight." I was choked, hit in the face with a gun, slapped, punched, and kicked repeatedly in the stomach. One of them even put a gun in my mouth and threatened to shoot.

Mr. President, in this particular case, this particular tragedy, just a few short weeks before this vicious attack, Arkansas had passed its fetal protection act. Under that Arkansas State law, Eric Bullock was convicted on February 9, 2001, of capital murder against Shiwona's unborn child and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was also convicted of first degree battery for harm against Shiwona.

In yet another example—this one in Columbus, OH—16-year-old Sean Steele was found guilty of two counts of murder for the death of his girlfriend, Barbara "Bobbie" Watkins, age 15, and her 22-week-old unborn child. He was convicted under Ohio's unborn victims law, which represented the first murder conviction in Franklin County, OH, in which the victim was a fetus.

Another example: In the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings, Federal prosecutors were able to charge the defendants with the murders of or injuries to the mothers, but not to their unborn babies. Again, Federal law currently fails to criminalize these violent acts. There are no Federal provisions of the unborn victims of Federal crimes.

Our bill would make acts like these—acts of violence within Federal jurisdictions—Federal crimes. This is a very simple step that we can take, one that will have, I believe, a dramatic effect. It is something that we simply need to do.

The fact is that it is just plain wrong that our Federal Government does absolutely nothing to criminalize violent acts against unborn children. We cannot allow criminals to get away with murder. We simply must close this loophole.

As a civilized society, we must take a stand against violent crimes against children. We must close this loophole.

We purposely drafted this legislation very narrowly. Because of that, our bill would not permit the prosecution for any abortion to which a woman consented. It would not permit the prosecution of a woman for any action, legal or unlegal, in regard to her unborn child. Our legislation would not permit the prosecution for harm caused to the mother or unborn child in the course of medical treatment. And finally, our bill would not allow for the imposition of the death penalty under this act.

It is time we wrap the arms of justice around unborn children and protect them against criminal assailants. Everyone agrees that violent assailants of unborn babies are, in fact, criminals. When acts of violence against unborn victims fall within Federal jurisdiction, we must have a penalty. We have an obligation to our unborn children who cannot speak for themselves. The Senate must act.

I strongly urge my colleagues to join in support of this legislation. I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.

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