Washington, DC - U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) offered a substitute amendment today to the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that would deter and punish violent acts against pregnant women without interjecting a debate on abortion. The prepared statement of Congresswoman Lofgren is below:
"Mr. Speaker, let's be clear, on its face, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act appears to be a tool to prevent assault against pregnant women and non-consensual termination of pregnancy. Upon closer examination, it is obvious that the purpose of the bill is to conflict with the core principles of Roe v. Wade. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act focuses on legally recognizing a fetus, an embryo, and even a fertilized egg as a "person" with rights and interests separate from and equal to those of the woman.
"What I am doing today is offering a substitute that my colleagues and I hope can unify members on both sides of the debate over choice to achieve a very important goal - the deterrence and punishment of violent acts against pregnant women. According to the purported goals of H.R. 1997, that is our common ground.
"But, it is clear that the purpose of H.R. 1997 is not actually to achieve the purported common goal of protecting pregnant women from assault. If that were the case, we would all vote today for the Lofgren Substitute and begin to ensure that women across the country are safe from violence.
"The Lofgren Substitute does not threaten Roe v. Wade, but instead creates a new, separate offense for any violent or assaultive conduct against a pregnant woman that interrupts or terminates her pregnancy. The Substitute provides that any interruption in the pregnancy is punishable by a fine and imprisonment of up to 20 years, and if the pregnancy is terminated - even if unintentionally - the assailant can be sentenced to life in prison. These penalties are even tougher than those provided in the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
"Those of us who have experienced a miscarriage understand a very essential truth; when a women loses one of life's most precious opportunities, the loss is something that she never forgets. Whether the woman is six weeks pregnant or six months pregnant, that loss is acutely felt by the woman, and it deserves the full penalty that the law can provide.
"Penalties under H.R. 1997, however, vary depending upon the underlying crime, resulting in inconsistent penalties for the same horrific crime. In fact, under H.R. 1997, when a postal worker is assaulted and there is a resulting injury to the pregnancy, there's only a maximum penalty of three years. But if the same assault happens to another federal employee, her assailant could get up to eight years in prison under H.R. 1997.
"Why should a penalty for injury of one pregnant woman over another depend upon where she works? It defies logic and reason. Unlike the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, the Lofgren Substitute has tough, consistent penalties for the same horrific crime regardless of irrelevant circumstances like place of employment. A loss or injury to a pregnancy is the same loss to a woman no matter where she works.
"Mr. Speaker, advocates for H.R. 1997 say their bill is about protecting pregnant women from violence. In fact, the bill ignores women. H.R. 1997 does not address the woman, nor the assault committed against her. Under H.R. 1997, there is a possibility that the crime against the woman could go unpunished because there is no conviction requirement for the underlying crime. How can you say you're preventing violence against pregnant women when you ignore her and the crime against her?
"Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is the Lofgren Substitute does not needlessly interject the abortion debate and exploit what is concededly a matter of a pregnant women's right to be safe, healthy and free from such horrific acts of violence.
"While I support legislation that has the goal of protecting pregnant women from violence, I cannot do so through legislation that could also undermine other extremely important rights of women - like the right to choose. That is antithetical to the protection and safety of women.
"I hope we can come together on this substitute. Last Congress, there were a number of anti-choice Members of this House that voted for the substitute, understanding that the penalties are indeed more severe and would provide complete protection for women. I urge those individuals to do so again to show this country that Congress is serious about protecting pregnant women from violence."