Fetal Homicide Laws (U.S.)
Unless the context is abortion, it is a federal crime to harm an unborn child.
As the law stands today, if a pregnant woman on her way to an abortion clinic (where her child will be legally killed), is assaulted in the street, causing the death of her unborn child, those who assaulted her would be guilty of manslaughter.
The widespread existence of fetal homicide laws, when considered next to current abortion law, creates for the U.S. a form of legal schizophrenia that is both tragic and bizarre. It boggles the mind that a culture as "advanced" and "intelligent" as ours could live with such a blatant double standard, a double standard that is enshrined in law. Either unborn children are people before they're born (in which case fetal homicide laws are just and abortion laws are not), or unborn children are not people before they're born (in which case abortion laws are just and fetal homicide laws are not). You can't have it both ways, but we do. It is absolutely absurd.
More than anything, this strange legal partnership makes it clear that, for all the arguments that are made about why unborn children should not be given rights of personhood, this isn't the issue at all. The only thing that matters is the will of the mother. If the mother wants the child, it is a person. Those who harm it will be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If the mother doesn't want the child, it isn't a person. It can be torn limb from limb with full legal impunity, no questions asked. The child is exactly the same in both scenarios, it is only the affections of the mother which are changed. Do you see the problem with this? Do you see a problem with basing one person's right to life on nothing else but the whims of another?
Even before President Bush signed into law The Unborn Victims of Violence Act in April of 2004, making it a crime to harm an embryo or fetus at any stage of pregnancy during an assault on a pregnant woman, 31 states already had similar laws on the books. On the federal level, The Unborn Victims of Violence Act states that "Whoever engages in conduct that violates any of the provisions of law... and thereby causes the death of, or bodily injury to, a child, who is in utero at the time the conduct takes place, is guilty of a separate offense under this section." The measure goes on to say that it need not be proven that the assailant had knowledge that the woman was pregnant or had any specific intent to harm her child. If however, "the person engaging in the conduct thereby intentionally kills or attempts to kill the unborn child, that person shall... [be] punished... for intentionally killing or attempting to kill a human being."
There it is, embryos and fetuses are referred to by law as "child", and those who intentionally harm them are guilty of "[killing] a human being," UNLESS they are killed during "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." Abortionists are, thereby, formally excempted from any prohibition against killing children in the womb.
Think about this, as the law stands today, if a pregnant woman on her way to an abortion clinic (where her child will be legally killed), is assaulted in the street, causing the death of her unborn child, those who assaulted her would be guilty of manslaughter under the Unborn Victims Act. They would be guilty for bringing about the exact same result (the death of an unborn child) that the abortion doctor would have legally secured (and been paid for) just a few minutes later. In one instance, the child in utero is a human being, in the other it is fetal tissue. Or how about this? When Scott Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death for killing his wife and killing his own unborn son, the law made it abundantly clear that fathers do not have the right to kill their unborn children. On, the flip side, however, every mother in America has the legal right to kill her unborn children, up until the very moment of birth. This is legal insanity.
This page was last updated on September 03, 2009. To cite this page in a research paper, visit: "Citing Abort73 as a Source."
- U.S. Abortion Law: An overview of the history and legality of abortion in the United States.