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July 25, 2003|
Legislative Report From Capitol Hill - S. 1019, |
a bill to create a separate federal offense for crimes against pregnant women that result in harm to the fetus may reach the Senate floor soon. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., on Wednesday sought unanimous consent to bring up the legislation but Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) objected.
But Reid told Frist that Senate Democrats led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have drawn up a short list of amendments they would seek to offer to the measure. He said Democrats might be ready as soon as Thursday to enter into a unanimous consent agreement for consideration of the bill.
The measure, sponsored by Mike DeWine (R-OH), is similar to a House bill (HR 1997), sponsored by Rep. Melissa A. Hart (R-PA) that was approved July 15 by the Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee.
Senators Frist and DeWine said the bill is needed to cover what they described as a "loophole" in federal law. Both cited the case of Laci Peterson, a Modesto, Calif., woman, whose body and that of her unborn son were discovered in April. Her husband, Scott Peterson, was charged with murdering his wife. "Everybody recognizes there is a second victim" in that and similar cases, Senator DeWine said.
Sharon Rocha, who is both Laci Peterson's mother and little Connor Petersonís grandmother, has written senators urging them to pass S. 1019.
Opponents of the legislation argue that legally recognizing fetuses as separate victims would undermine the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that women have a constitutional right to obtain abortions. In the House subcommittee, they sought unsuccessfully to substitute enhanced penalties for crimes against pregnant women that result in harm to the unborn.
Senator Feinstein is preparing a substitute amendment in the Senate that would charge defendants with a separate offense for committing a federal crime against a pregnant woman that affects her pregnancy. Under the substitute, a defendant who knew or should have known his victim was pregnant would receive a maximum sentence of life in prison for terminating the pregnancy, in addition to existing penalties.
There is no denying that Connor Peterson was a separate victim when he and his mother were murdered. The fact that he existed as a separate individual should be recognized under the law, and the person who took his life should be tried for two murders, not one. Please ask your Senators to vote for S. 1019.
Capitol Switchboard -- 202/224-3121.
The text of the amendment is:
"None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this act may be used to issue patents on claims directed to or encompassing a human organism."
This is a big development because it is the first time the House of Representatives has taken the position that humans should not be patented. That threat is very real. Some who conduct research on human organisms want to patent human beings. The most recent example is the horrific story of scientists creating male-female hybrid human embryos and then wanting to patent them. Currently, the patent office has a policy that it will not approve patents on humans, but it is important that Congress bolster that policy by recognizing it in law.
Humans should not be considered property. Whatever one's views about prenatal human life, we should all agree that no member of the human species is an "invention," or mere property to be licensed, bought and sold. That question was resolved when our nation approved the 13th amendment to end slavery.
Rep. Weldon, who is a physician, has performed a tremendous service by introducing his amendment. Calls of appreciation can be made to his Congressional office at 202/225-3671 or to his district offices in Melbourne at 321/632-1776 and Vero Beach at 561/778-3534.
Our friend has also informed us that most U.S. Senators have adopted a similar system. He advises that the best way to send an e-mail to your Senators is to go to their web page and send it from there.
"We need only recognize that once you are constituted a human being (which always occurs at fertilization or at an event that mimics fertilization like cloning), you are an embryonic member of the human race who is to be protected unconditionally.
"The human zygote, thus, is already a being that is human, and such beings are sacrosanct entities, because thatís what we all directly spring from at the root level" (Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk in a Letter to the Editor, National Catholic REGISTER, 6/1-7/03)
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