House Attacks Women’s Reproductive Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 26, 2004

Contact: Priscilla Ring or Laurie Boeder at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Victims of Violent Crime Used as Political Pawns

The House of Representative’s passage of the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” (H.R. 1997) is a blatant attack by the anti-choice members of Congress on women’s reproductive choice. This legislation would create a separate criminal offense for causing the death or injury of a zygote, embryo or fetus in any state of development. By legally recognizing the zygote, embryo or fetus as a separate legal person, this legislation attempts to erode the foundation of Roe v. Wade and threaten a woman’s right to choose. With Senate leadership expected to bypass committee consideration, the legislation is now headed directly to the Senate floor for a vote.

“A small majority of right wing ideologues in Congress are doing whatever they can to erode women’s constitutionally protected privacy and reproductive rights,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way. “The House’s message is loud and clear. The Republican leadership doesn’t care about protecting women from violence, only about undermining their fundamental right to choose.”

The House rejected alternative legislation that could protect women from violence without threatening women’s constitutionally protected reproductive rights. Offered as a substitute by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-16th, CA), “The Motherhood Protection Act” would have created a separate criminal offense for federal crimes against pregnant women, without establishing the zygote, embryo or fetus as an individual legal entity. This bill would have authorized additional harsh penalties for violence against a pregnant woman – up to 20 years when an embryo or fetus is injured and up to life in prison if a pregnancy is terminated – but it would not have established separate legal rights for the unborn zygote, embryo or fetus.

“Anti-choice ideologues are using victims of violence as pawns in their political fight against Roe v. Wade,” added Neas. “The American people will see through their cynical, back-door attempt to undermine a woman’s fundamental right to choose. Pregnant women deserve protection from violence, but they shouldn’t have to pay for it with their reproductive freedom.”