On March 25, by a vote of 49 to 50, the Senate narrowly failed to pass an amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) as a “substitute” to the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R. 1997), also known as Laci and Conner’s Law, which was passed by the House in late February.
The bill, which will soon be signed into law by President Bush, makes it a federal offense to kill or injure an unborn child in the commission of another federal offense or in other situations under federal jurisdiction.
Feinstein’s amendment was a so-called “poison pill” amendment, intended to undermine the bill itself. First, if the amendment had passed, it would have required a conference committee between the House and Senate to reconcile their versions of the bill, complicating matters and perhaps preventing any bill from becoming law this year.
Second, the original bill was clearly intended to define an unborn child as a human being, but Feinstein’s amendment would have undone this, making the murder or injury of an unborn child merely an exacerbating circumstance in a crime of assault or murder against its mother.
Under current federal law, Sen. Mike DeWine (R.-Ohio) explained, “the death of that child would not be able to be charged as what we would think would be a separate offense. There is the victim, the mother, who was assaulted; and there is the victim, the unborn child, who was either injured or killed.”
DeWine said that the Feinstein amendment refuses to recognize the second victim. He read from House testimony by Tracy Marciniak about the murder of her unborn child: “I know that some lawmakers and some groups insist there is no such thing as an unborn victim, and that crimes like this only have a single victim–but that is callous and that is wrong. Please don’t tell me that my son was not a real victim of a real crime. We were both victims, but only I survived.”
Feinstein framed the debate as a conservative conspiracy against women’s rights, namely the “right” to abortion. She accused the bill’s supporters of inserting a wedge in the Roe v. Wade decision, questioning their sincerity in wanting to protect innocent lives from criminals. “This will be the first strike against all abortion in the United States of America,” Feinstein said. “It is like you say to me, ‘gotcha,'” she added.
In Feinstein’s words: “The bill covers children that are not children; that are a day old in the womb, that are at conception. Because once you give an embryo, at the point of conception, all of the legal rights of a human being, and you have said that embryo, then, if it is lost to humankind, is murdered, you have created the legal case to go against Roe v. Wade in federal law for the first time in history.” She said she fears the bill would set the stage “for a jurist to acknowledge that human beings at any stage of development deserve protection — even protection that would trump a woman’s interest in terminating a pregnancy.”
Congressional sources tell HUMAN EVENTS that the pro-life success in defeating this amendment can be chalked up to hard work by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.). Frist was reportedly instrumental in bringing pro-abortion Senators Ben Campbell (R.-Colo.) — whose vote was in doubt up to the last hour — and Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska) over to the pro-life side. In turn, Murkowski brought with her Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska).
Interestingly, liberal Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) found this rollcall very unpleasant and tried to sit on the fence. Although he did not want to be the vote that caused Feinstein’s amendment to pass, he voted “yes” only after was clear that the amendment would fail. This made little political sense for him, as a “no” vote would have helped him fend off the tough primary challenge he faces from conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.).
A “yes” vote was a vote if favor of the Feinstein amendment that would have undermined the original Unborn Victims of Violence bill. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment, and in favor of preserving the underlying bill.
|For the Amendment: 49||Against the Amendment: 50|
|REPUBLICANS FOR (4):
DEMOCRATS FOR (44):
INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST (47):
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (3):
NOT VOTING: 1
|REPUBLICANS (0):||DEMOCRATS (1):|