What: All Issues : Family Planning : Abortion : H.R. 1997. Fetal Protection/Vote on Democratic Version Which Would Increase Penalties for Crimes Against Pregnant Women Without Granting Fetuses Legal Rights Independent of Mothers.
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H.R. 1997. Fetal Protection/Vote on Democratic Version Which Would Increase Penalties for Crimes Against Pregnant Women Without Granting Fetuses Legal Rights Independent of Mothers.
house Roll Call 30     Feb 26, 2004
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

Twenty-nine states have fetal homicide laws that apply to unborn children. However, there is currently no federal law which allows prosecutors to file criminal charges or add punishments for crimes against pregnant women. In an effort to extend legal protections to unborn children, Republican leaders brought legislation to the House floor which would make it a separate crime to harm a fetus during the commission of a crime against a pregnant woman. While most lawmakers agree that crimes against pregnant women should carry extra punishments, Conservatives and Progressives had different views about how fetuses should be treated in the eyes of the law. In the view of Conservatives, federal law should recognize fetuses as distinct legal entities and crimes against pregnant women should result in two identical criminal charges. While Progressives support increasing the penalties for crimes against pregnant women, they oppose granting fetuses legal rights which are independent of the mother. Putting the legal rights of fetuses on par with those of mothers, Progressives argued, could be used as a legal weapon to undermine abortion rights codified in the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade. During debate on the fetal protection measure, Representative Lofgren (D-CA) offered alternative legislation on behalf of minority party Democrats which would have strengthened penalties for crimes against pregnant women without granting fetuses legal standing independent of mothers. Progressives voted in favor of the Democratic version of the fetal protection bill as a way to augment legal penalties for violence against pregnant women without conferring legal standing to fetuses in federal court. Conservatives opposed the Democrats' bill because they viewed it as too weak. In their view, federal law should provide fetuses with the same legal rights as everyone else. On a vote of 186-229, the Democratic version of the fetal protection measure was defeated and the underlying Republican version was allowed to proceed to a final vote.

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