SHOW: NEWS FROM CNN 12:00
HEADLINE: Unborn Victims Bill
GUESTS: Zoe Lofgren, Mike DeWine
BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer
Many Republicans are using the Peterson case to support legislation that would give a fetus separate legal rights.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans, many of them, at least, are using the Peterson case to support legislation that would give a fetus separate legal rights.
Joining me now to debate the issue, Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio. He is the chief sponsor of what's called the unborn victims bill, and California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who is proposing an alternative bill, which provides a possible life sentence for any assailant who terminates a pregnancy.
Thanks to both of you for joining us. Senator, let me begin with you. Why is it necessary for the federal government to enact this kind of legislation?
SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: Wolf, it's necessary, really, to plug a loophole in the law. We have a situation today where this crime could occur on a federal Air Force base, for example, and it would not be a separate crime. It would not be covered. A federal prosecutor could look down and say the only thing I can charge for this horrendous crime is the assault against the mother, but I could not charge for the assault against the child who has been killed, and that would not be right. It would not be just. We have 26 states that passed a very similar law to this.
BLITZER: So, in other words, Congresswoman Lofgren, if Laci Peterson had been murdered with her 8-month-old son -- unborn son on a federal Air Force base or some other federal property, the U.S. government would only be able to charge murder -- one count of murder as opposed to two. Should that be rectified?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I have an alternative plan, and I think it will flush out the fact that this proposal is more about the abortion debate than it is about this terrible crime.
I have a bill that really follows the California measure, where there is a prosecution underway, as you know, that does not establish the fetus as a separate person under the Constitution. In fact, my bill has tougher sentences. It's a tougher crime bill, and the fact that it hasn't gotten support, I think, is indicative of what this is about. This bill is not new. The Right to Life Committee brought the then-called unborn victims of violence bill to the House five years ago. It's only with this terrible tragedy that they put a new name on it and are trying to reenergize. But again, it's not about crime. It's about abortion, and I think it's really a shame that this tragedy has been involved in this.
BLITZER: Senator DeWine, go ahead and respond.
DEWINE: Wolf, first of all, this is not about abortion. It has an abortion exception right in the bill. That's the way the bill has been written. This is a bill that has been introduced in the past. The House has passed this bill, I might say, on a bipartisan basis several different times in the past.
California's law -- what I don't understand about what the congresswoman has said is, California is actually prosecuting under a law similar to what our law says, under two separate victims. So California's law is not what the congresswoman says at all. It is similar to what our law is because it recognizes two separate victims, as prosecuting it says that Connor and Laci both are separate victims, and that is what our law says, and her bill does not recognize that. In fact, what it does, it has some, unfortunately, a legal contortion which says that there is not a second victim.
BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Congresswoman.
LOFGREN: In fact, as a lawyer admitted to practice in California, Section 187 of the penal code provides for a penalty of destroying the fetus, and that is being charged in this case. The bill that the Right to Life people have brought forward defines a fetus, either eight months or three weeks as a separate child, which is contrary to what the Supreme Court has found in the Constitution, and the purpose for that is not to punish those criminals who would injure a woman and terminate her pregnancy. Those people ought to be prosecuted. I say throw the book at them. The purpose is to try and create an exception to Row v. Wade. It is the same thing they did for prenatal care for undocumented women.
BLITZER: Senator DeWine, I want you to respond to that, but then I want to move on and ask you a different subject -- a question on a different subject. Go ahead and respond.
DEWINE: I have not heard one person go on TV today in the last few weeks and say that California should not be prosecuting for the death of Connor Peterson. No one is saying that. And that is -- the only thing that we are saying in our bill -- our bill is very closely patterned after what many states have done, and we simply say it is unjust not to prosecute for that second death...
BLITZER: Well, let me ask you this question...
DEWINE: Excuse me, but when that child washed ashore in California, no one says that that child is not a second victim. That child is a second victim, and to say that that child is not a second victim is simply wrong.
BLITZER: Senator -- senator, I want to move on, but what if Laci Peterson had been three weeks pregnant as opposed to eight months pregnant. Would your proposed legislation differentiate on that front?
DEWINE: Our law -- and some states do differentiate, some states do not. Our law would say that that child is still a separate victim.
BLITZER: And Congresswoman, do you want to respond, just to that, before I move on?
LOFGREN: Well, the Supreme Court has never said that eight cells is an independent person with rights under the Constitution. That is what this bill would say, and I think it is just a smoke screen for the abortion fight, and I think it's really very unfortunate that this horrible, horrible...
DEWINE: She should tell the grandparents of Peterson's...
LOFGREN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
DEWINE: ... a separate victim is absolutely wrong.
LOFGREN: What happened to that girl and losing their grandchild is outrageous, but it is also outrageous for the Right to Life loonies to pick on this tragedy, put the names on the bill when it's a five- year plan.
DEWINE: Excuse me, we have not done that in the Senate.
LOFGREN: I'm sorry. But it's a five-year plan to undo Row v. Wade. Row v. Wade is what this is about.
DEWINE: I resent that. I resent that. We have not added, in the United States Senate, a name to this.
LOFGREN: Well, they have in the House. They have in the House of Representatives.
DEWINE: We have not done that in the Senate at all, so don't be saying that.
BLITZER: Senator, Congresswoman, I want to move on because -- while I have you. I know both of you are deeply involved in the intelligence -- monitoring the intelligence community, Homeland Security. First to you, Senator DeWine. Based on what you know right now, is it time to elevate the alert status from yellow to orange, from the elevated level to the high level, given the so-called "increased chatter," the increased threats apparently out there, not only abroad, but here in the United States as well?
DEWINE: Well, I'll leave that up to the administration, but it's clear that we have a serious situation. It's clear that al Qaeda is still out there. But, look. We've known that. We've known that we have a long, long struggle. We know the situation in Saudi Arabia is very serious. Saudi Arabia clearly can not provide the protection that is needed inside Saudi Arabia, but it goes beyond that, and we know that the intelligence information that has been, at least in the media, would indicate that we have a serious situation.
BLITZER: Senator DeWine is a member of the Intelligence Committee. Congresswoman, what about you? I know you're involved in monitoring Homeland Security as well.
LOFGREN: Well, we just came off an all-morning hearing with Secretary Ridge, who is, I think, a very decent, honorable guy. But I think the department is not really well organized yet, and I'm not sure that we're yet ready to do what's necessary to protect this country, and clearly al Qaeda has made great strides in regrouping. So, certainly, the administration is the proper party to make the decision on alert levels, not Congress, but we have a lot to be worried about.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thanks very much for joining us. Senator DeWine, as usual, thanks to you as well. We'll continue the discussion on both of these issues, obviously, in the days and weeks to come. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com