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House Votes to Punish Violence Against Both Mother and Unborn Child

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February 26, 2004 | Kate Dwyer (202-225-3031) | comments

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted to treat federal crimes of violence against mothers and their unborn children as crimes with two victims, rather than one.  Wisconsin’s First District Congressman Paul Ryan cosponsored and voted in favor of the legislation – H.R. 1997, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act – which passed by a wide margin (254-163). 

The legislation closes gaps in federal law by providing that if an unborn child is injured or killed during the commission of crimes of violence already defined under federal law, prosecutors can bring two charges: one on behalf of the mother, the other on behalf of the unborn victim.  Under current federal law, a person who commits a federal crime of violence against a pregnant woman receives no additional punishment for killing or injuring the woman’s unborn child, unless the child was born alive after the assault and later died as a result of the attack.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act applies to crimes committed under federal or U.S. military jurisdiction and does not affect state laws.  Wisconsin is one of 29 states that now have laws regarding unborn homicide victims. 

“It’s time that federal law caught up to our state’s law,” Ryan said.  “If someone assaults a pregnant woman and kills or hurts her unborn child, we should hold the attacker responsible for that death or injury.  Federal law should recognize that there are two victims in such crimes, to help protect both mothers and their unborn children from these heinous attacks.  Ignoring the loss or injury of the child is immoral and defies common sense.”

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