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America's Culture War: Abortion

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"Unborn Victims" Act Passed

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

On Thursday, April 1, 2004, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill that was written to protect infants in the womb. Known as the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” or “Laci and Conner’s Law,” the law makes it a separate crime to kill or harm an unborn child if the mother is assaulted. Before signing the bill into law, President Bush confirmed: “As of today, the law of our nation will acknowledge the plain fact that crimes of violence against a pregnant woman often have two victims” (as quoted in Goler, 2004).

Abortion advocates already have circled the troops and sounded the battle cry. They were quick to point out that the legislation defines life as starting at the point of conception, and therefore confers personhood to a fetus. And rightly so; abortion-rights supporters would be hard pressed to find many scientists who do not accept conception as the beginning of a life—the moment the two gametes, each possessing one-half of the chromosomal compliment, come together to form a zygote. Their anxiety about this new law is justified, especially since more and more evidence points to the fact that human life begins at conception. The law itself actually reads:

As used in this section, the term “unborn child” means a child in utero, and the term “child in utero” or “child, who is in utero” means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb (see Laci and Conner’s Law, 2004).

The new legislation is rather short (only two pages), and is void of much of the legal jargon commonly found in political measures today. It basically “piggy-backs” onto previous statutes regarding intentionally killing or injuring a person, and simply adds the unborn child as a second victim. It states: “Whoever engages in conduct that violates any of the provisions of law listed in subsection (b) and thereby causes the death of, or bodily injury (as defined in section 1365) to, a child, who is in utero at the time the conduct takes place, is guilty of a separate offense under this section” (see Laci and Conner’s Law, 2004). This piece of legislation is very similar to a law given thousands of years ago that confirmed personhood to an unborn child: “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life…” (Exodus 21:22-23, emp. added).

This measure comes on the heels of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by the United States Senate in October 2003 by a 64-34 margin. Following that victory, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (who is the only medical doctor serving as a senator) noted: “We have just outlawed a procedure that is barbaric, that is brutal, that is offensive to our moral sensibilities and that is out of the mainstream of the ethical practice of medicine today” (as quoted in Rosenberg, 2003, 142[18]:44, emp. added). Those words come from a man who spent a great deal of his life as a surgeon! Additionally, in 2002 the President’s bioethics council submitted their findings on the ethics of cloning humans. In that report, the experts affirmed: “We hold that the case for treating the early-stage embryo as simply the moral equivalent of all other human cells is simply mistaken” (Kass, 2002, p. LIV).

The United States has effectively conveyed personhood to the growing child in the womb. Maybe it is due in part to the advancement of medical science, which has produced things like three-dimensional ultrasound images that provide a crystal clear image of an infant’s face. Or maybe it is due to the newfound knowledge we now possess of what really occurs on a cellular level when sperm and egg come together. Or maybe it is simply that individuals realize that an “object” who responds to light, heat, sound, and will occasionally suck its thumb, is more than just “dead tissue” and is instead a living human. Perhaps one day soon, all of our national laws will reflect the sanctity of life as God’s Word teaches.

But consider the irony that still exists. A man can be tried for murder if he kills an infant growing inside a woman. However, if a day earlier the woman wanted to do so, she could terminate that human life without fear of imprisonment. This new law for “Unborn Victims” contains a clause that should make people stop and think. After discussing that the death penalty shall not be imposed for an offense under this section, it goes on to note that “nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the prosecution—(1) of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman, or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf, has been obtained or for which such consent is implied by law” (Laci and Conner’s Law, 2004). Translation? You cannot use this law to prosecute a woman that chooses to end a human life with abortion. So while infants are now protected by law from “outside insult,” they are not protected from the very individual responsible for bringing them into this world. What message are we sending to future generations by allowing mothers a free pass to terminate what we now recognize and define as a human life, while others are prosecuted?

REFERENCES

Goler, Wendell (2004), “Bush Signs ‘Laci and Conner’s Law,’ ” FoxNews, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,115825,00.html.

Kass, Leon (2002), Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics (New York: PublicAffairs, Ltd.).

Laci and Conner’s Law (2004), “Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004,” [On-line], URL: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.R.1997.enr:.

Rosenberg, Debra (2003), “A Firefight Over Abortion,” Time, 142[18]:44, November 3.




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