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Conservatives Win Big With Fetus Bill
March 27, 2004 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Conservatives Win Big With Fetus Bill
posted by SpaceCadet (26 comments total)

 
Not exactly:

The Senate passed the Unborn Victims of Life Act, which amends existing federal crimes to allow prosecution of persons who cause death to a fetus during the commission of a federal crime.

Opponents of the measure feared it would undermine Roe v. Wade. That is because of the definition section, which says that fetuses are defined to be "children":

`(d) 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.'.

Undermining Roe may be the purpose of one or more of its original sponsors, but it won't have that effect. Roe is a constitutional rule, and cannot be overturned or limited by statute. Congress can call a fetus a child but that doesn't change the constitutional right to abortion.

In any case, the statute by its own terms does not reach abortions:

`(c) 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;

`(2) of any person for any medical treatment of the pregnant woman or her unborn child; or

`(3) of any woman with respect to her unborn child.

This produces a perverse result for pro-life forces: Congress officially says that a fetus is a child, but also officially says that ending the life of this child through abortion is legal. Should a pro-life Senator vote for such a bill?

Equally interesting is the death penalty provision:

`(D) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the death penalty shall not be imposed for an offense under this section.

This produces another perverse result: it distinguishes between born children and unborn children (as defined by the statute). Crimes against born children may deserve the death penalty under federal law; however, according to Congress, no crimes against the latter do. Why should this be, if fetuses are defined as children? Are pro-life forces conceding that the life of a born child is more valuable than the life of a fetus? Again, should a pro-life Senator vote for such a bill?

One suspects that most pro-life politicians will say, yes, on the theory that half a loaf is better than none; by defining the unborn as children, the bill symbolizes disagreement with Roe. But the symbolism cuts both ways, for the bill as actually written doesn't treat unborn children the same as other children, and it actually undermines the claim that abortion is the functional equivalent of murder.

posted by y2karl at 11:48 AM on March 27, 2004


Rubber over here, glue over there. Chop chop, people.
posted by squirrel at 11:49 AM on March 27, 2004


Hm, this sounds kinda serious to me. Flamebait?
posted by scarabic at 11:53 AM on March 27, 2004


scarabic, stay on topic please. I never said I would not post any links. I refuse to debate them.
posted by SpaceCadet at 12:00 PM on March 27, 2004


You can WIN BIG with fetus, too! For the next half hour, we're going to share with you our proven strategy for leveraging fetus futures, waging war and raping the environment!
  • No cash?
  • No problem!
    We'll show you how you can run up deficits in the trillions to pay for your wacky schemes!
    And now here's your host, Kaaarl Rove....

  • posted by 2sheets at 12:10 PM on March 27, 2004


    Fetus Bill sounds like a character in a Schoolhouse Rock parody...
    posted by wendell at 12:13 PM on March 27, 2004


    The question that now faces us, of course, is whether the crime of homicide should now take into account the full reproductive potential of the victim. Kill a man and you're killing billions of sperm--or should I say early-development persons? Unless the victim is gay, of course, in which case his sperm (or her egg) is worthless. Worthless and, I'm sorry, as wrong as wendell.
    posted by squirrel at 1:07 PM on March 27, 2004


    Space Cadet, you're debating now. BUSTED!
    posted by squirrel at 1:09 PM on March 27, 2004


    MetaFilter: as wrong as wendell
    posted by wendell at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2004


    Good! A step in the right direction. Finally. Took a long time for GwB to do something I appreciate.

    Kill a man and you're killing billions of sperm--or should I say early-development persons?

    Not unless someone manages to inject eggs down there... (chills run through the spine)
    posted by shepd at 2:25 PM on March 27, 2004


    Oh, I see. The sperm requires more development before it becomes a fully recognized human... compared to, say, a fetilized egg, which is pretty much ready for a driver's lisence and a martini.
    posted by squirrel at 3:23 PM on March 27, 2004


    Undermining Roe may be the purpose of one or more of its original sponsors, but it won't have that effect. Roe is a constitutional rule, and cannot be overturned or limited by statute. Congress can call a fetus a child but that doesn't change the constitutional right to abortion.

    This doesn't seem like a strong argument to me. Of course this bill in itself cannot overturn Roe v. Wade, since congress can't overturn a supreme court decision, but I don't see why it can't help lay a foundation for an eventual reversal of the statute once there are enough pro-life judges on the court... There are many factors that would be necessary for abortion to be outlawed, and this by no means covers them all, but it could be one among them nonetheless.

    This produces a perverse result for pro-life forces: Congress officially says that a fetus is a child, but also officially says that ending the life of this child through abortion is legal. Should a pro-life Senator vote for such a bill?

    It says it's legal because that's an unavoidable fact - it is legal, and it cannot be outlawed by congress because it isn't the decision of congress. Only the court could overturn that decision. That is just the sort of clause that the lawyers had to put in because it's the way things are now, legally.

    This produces another perverse result: it distinguishes between born children and unborn children (as defined by the statute). Crimes against born children may deserve the death penalty under federal law; however, according to Congress, no crimes against the latter do. Why should this be, if fetuses are defined as children? Are pro-life forces conceding that the life of a born child is more valuable than the life of a fetus? Again, should a pro-life Senator vote for such a bill?

    This is a slightly more promising argument, since there doesn't seem to be an external reason this provision would have to be included. However, I don't know that pro-life people would be seeking to get the death penalty for people who have abortions; they just want it to be against the law. In other words, they could easily distinguish between killing a born child and killing an unborn child, and still believe they should both be against the law.
    posted by mdn at 4:04 PM on March 27, 2004


    metafilter: pretty much ready for a driver's lisence and a martini.

    but really, a yahoo news link? i've been thinking about it lately, and if you're gonna do newsfilter, at least find a link better than frikkin' yahoo. cripes.
    posted by kaibutsu at 5:55 PM on March 27, 2004


    To think of all the sperm I murdered as a teenager.
    posted by Slagman at 8:48 PM on March 27, 2004


    The thing is, Scott Peterson, the man who murdered Laci, is already being prosecuted for the death of their soon-to-be-born child. It's been a prosecutable offence in California for decades:

    In Robert Keeler's case, prosecutors tried to charge him with the murder of "Baby Girl Vogt" — the child's father was a man named Ernest Vogt — along with the beating of his ex-wife. But the California Supreme Court threw out the charge, saying that a fetus was not a human being and therefore could not be murdered under the statute. According to a long tradition of common law, the justices said, only someone "born alive" could be killed.

    A public outcry followed and the state legislature amended the murder statute to include the killing of a fetus. Later, the state Supreme Court stepped in again and ruled that murder charges can only apply to fetuses older than seven weeks, or beyond the embryonic stage.


    The thing that makes the "Laci and Connor" law so creepy is that they define fetal homicide as occurring at any phase of the pregnancy, whether or not the accused knew that the woman is pregnant. There's a huge difference between causing the death of a fetus in the earliest weeks of gestation, when the woman might not even be aware she was pregnant, and assaulting a obviously pregnant woman or one you know to be pregnant with a wanted child.
    posted by echolalia67 at 9:36 PM on March 27, 2004


    Not in the Lord's eyes, sister!
    posted by squirrel at 11:42 PM on March 27, 2004


    The only politician I've seen change their mind on abortion is Kucinich. If there has been a case of a conservative performing the same shift, I have not found it.

    The granting of human status at a certain stage of development is pure guesswork. I've vacillated heavily on this issue. However, when put into terms of the unborn verses the mother, I'll choose the mother every time. The real fight should be in lessening the factors that lead to an abortion.
    posted by john at 8:27 AM on March 28, 2004


    Too easy, john. Monkey-Boy did it too.

    David Corn of The Nation suggested the following question for Bush on his Meet the Press appearance:

    When you ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1978 in Texas, you gave an interview to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper. You were asked about your position on abortion, and this is how that newspaper reported your answer: "Bush said he opposes the pro-life amendment [which would outlaw abortion] and favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question." Sixteen years later, when you ran for governor in Texas in 1994, you campaigned as an antiabortion conservative. Few people seem to realize your position on abortion changed 180 degrees. Please tell us, when did you change your view on abortion and why?

    http://www.thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?pid=1238
    posted by gwyon at 10:23 AM on March 28, 2004


    Conservatives Win Big With Fetus Bill

    Conversely:

    Liberals Lose Big with Fetus Bill?
    posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:10 AM on March 28, 2004


    I'm pro-choice, but I don't see this as any victory for conservatives at all. Considering that in most states since late 1800s killing an unborn child has been considered murder and in the 1970s such laws, provided that they had an exception for abortion, were held constitutionally valid. Hence the conservatives have only made Federal law more like state law. This new law won't itself undue/change Roe or Casey alone just as similar state laws did not do anything to affect Roe (and later Casey).

    Do I agree with this law? Yes and no. I will answer no if it is meant to undue Roe and Casey, but I will answer yes if it is merely indented punish murders and help prevent crime. My feeling is that this law meant to undue Roe and Casey. Thus I feel troubled by the trend that this law likely seeks to start.

    This law alone is no danger to abortion rights. The real danger is appointing crazy judges (which Bush and his cartel of Republican criminals want to do) to reverse 30 years of judicial protection of privacy rights.

    Basicly what y2karl said...
    posted by Bag Man at 12:27 PM on March 28, 2004


    Conservatives Win Big With Fetus Bill

    Conversely:

    Liberals Lose Big with Fetus Bill?


    Neat trick Steve, but maybe time to learn a new one?
    posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:23 PM on March 28, 2004


    Basicly what y2karl said...

    Either of you have any thoughts on the responses I gave to those arguments? I'm not worried that this will turn things around immediately, but it does seem like it's laying a foundation. They could have said referred to the fetus as property or potential; they could have referred to it as a fetus or embryo, but they called it an unborn child.

    from the link:
    The legislation defines an "unborn child" as a child in utero, which it says "means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."

    that sounds a little worrying to me.
    posted by mdn at 4:19 PM on March 28, 2004


    Me, too, mdn.
    posted by squirrel at 5:00 PM on March 28, 2004


    gwyon,

    I meant a conservative going from pro-life to pro-choice. Though I will admit that I have not looked that hard.
    posted by john at 7:50 PM on March 28, 2004


    Most pro-choice politicians over the age of 60 were, at one time, pro-life politicians. Heck, Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson were both once staunchly pro-life. Before 1980, there was nothing particularly partisan about abortion politics. Republicans were as likely to be pro-choice as Democrats, and vice versa. Jimmy Carter was pro-life, for example, while Republican Supreme Court appointees were the majority of the Roe majority.

    Pete Wilson and Rudy Giuliani would be good starts to the long list of more-or-less conservative politicians who went pro-life to pro-choice.
    posted by MattD at 5:52 AM on March 29, 2004


    HR1997.enr, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004.
    posted by MrMoonPie at 7:38 AM on March 29, 2004


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