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Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC

UNBORN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE ACT OF 2003 -- (House of Representatives - February 26, 2004)

Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 529, I call up the bill (H.R. 1997) to amend title 18, United States Code, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to protect unborn children from assault and murder, and for other purposes, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 1997, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and in support of Representative LOFGREN's substitute.

On the surface, this bill appears to be an effort to protect pregnant women from violence. However, it actually does little to prevent violence against women, instead it dangerously opens the door to undermine a women's right to choose. The vast majority of domestic violence cases do not occur under federal jurisdiction, thus this bill would not help any of these women.

I believe that if we are going to create a crime for causing harm during a woman's pregnancy, we should also include efforts to prevent violence against women without opening up the abortion debate. H.R. 1997 does not provide protections for the mother; in fact the mother is hardly mentioned in the text of the bill. Instead it focuses solely on the "child in utero."

The Lofgren substitute, on the other hand, achieves that which the Unborn Victims of Violence Act only attempts to do.
That is to provide protection to pregnant women who are assaulted. And it does this without opening up the abortion debate. This substitute focuses on protecting women. Specifically, this substitute will make the assault of a pregnant woman which results in the interruption or termination of her pregnancy a federal offense. I believe the Lofgren substitute does a better job of achieving the intentions of H.R. 1997 supporters than the original bill. Not only does Representative LOFGREN's substitute remove the abortion debate from this bill, but it provides protection for the mother and her pregnancy, not just the fetus.

It is important to mention that this approach can only be used if the assailant has been convicted of the underlying offense, the assault to the mother. I believe that the best way to protect women from violence is not to attempt to provide legal rights to her fetus, but rather to protect the mother herself, and work to prevent domestic violence first.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act does not address the issue of violence against women. This bill will undermine a woman's right to choose, and have little affect on domestic violence in this country. As a result, I cannot vote in favor of this bill as it stands. This chamber needs to stand up against violence against women, especially pregnant women, and I believe Representative LOFGREN's substitute does this. Thus, I will be voting in favor of this substitute and urge my colleagues to do the same.

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