By Scott Tibbs, March 10, 2004
Why should we add more punishment to someone who kills a pregnant woman's unborn baby in addition to harming her? The answer is clear: there is more than one victim. If someone attacks a woman carrying a newborn baby, causing her to fall down and seriously injure her baby, we don't question that there should be a stiffer punishment for the crime than if there had been only one victim. While the mother may be injured from the fall, the damage to the baby is more serious. So why is it suddenly different when that baby is gestating inside the mother's body than being carried outside of her?
Arguing against stiffer punishments because "it seems to advance and extend the cycle of violence" is silly. Should we not punish criminals, then? Should we not add stiffer punishments to those who harm more than one person? It is an established principle of criminal law that a crime that does more harm is punished more severely than a crime that does less harm. I don't agree that it is revenge. It is punishment. The two are different concepts.
Neither I nor any other pro-lifer has argued that pregnant women are unprotected by current laws. We do recognize, however, that pre-born babies are not covered under the umbrella of laws against criminal violence. That is what we are seeking to change.
And yes, the organism growing inside the womb is a pre-born baby. Do a Google image search on fetus and see what you find. It is clear that there is a human being growing inside the mother's womb.
Yes, I have admitted that the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" is a way to re-define a fetus as a baby, with her own rights under the law. Yes, I have admitted that this is a step to repealing Roe v. Wade. However, this legislation does not infringe on the "right" to abort a pregnancy. In fact, it specifically exempts legal abortion. Opposing this legislation only because of its political ramifications does a disservice to victims of violent crime, both mother and child. It is possible to support both the right to "safe and legal" abortion while also supporting laws enacting stiffer penalties for criminal violence.
Update: The March 29 New York Times editorial is an example of the doublethink apparent in much of the opposition to the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The Times writes "it is safe to say that no one in the Senate needed to be convinced that attacks on pregnant women are horrific." But why are such attacks horrific? Is the pregnant woman herself somehow more valuable than a non-pregnant woman. Could it be, though, that there is something else that makes a crime against a pregnant woman worse than a crime against a non-pregnant woman?
The answer is that when a pregnant woman is assaulted, there are two victims instead of one. The state has a compelling interest to increase penalties for an attack on more than one person. Even supporters of abortion rights like Ms Feinstein and the Times editorial board understand that on some level.
I don't deny that the UVVA can and will be used politically to undermine "abortion rights". That does not mean, however, that a good law should not be passed because of these political considerations.