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One Crime, Two Victims By: Chris Weinkopf
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, September 17, 1999

THE THREE THUGS who attacked Shawana Pace, repeatedly kicking her in the belly, had one purpose in mind—the miscarriage of her full-term pregnancy. "Your baby is going to die tonight!," they taunted, shouting expletives as they pounded away. They later reportedly confessed as much to the police. Erik Bullock had hired them to kill the baby when Shawana, his girlfriend, refused his demand that she get an abortion. They succeeded in their objective. The baby, a girl named Heaven, died. Her mother, mercifully, survived.

Arkansas authorities now charge the assailants with capital murder—an allegation much more serious than anything prosecutors could have claimed only last year. A new state law classifies the killing of unborn children twelve weeks or older, in the commission of a crime, as murder. That’s certainly how Shawana Pace sees it. She pleaded with the killers to spare her daughter’s life. Her pain is more than that of a victim of assault; it is that of a grieving mother.

The federal government, however, treats crimes that result in the death of an unborn child no differently than any other. Bank robbers, kidnappers, and terrorists, for example—whose offenses fall under federal jurisdiction—face no additional charges if, in the process, they take an expectant mother’s baby. That might come as a sigh of relief to the likes of those who attacked Shawana Pace—and a reminder that they’re better off killing unborn babies on federal property—but offers little compensation to distraught parents or justice for lives lost.

Working from the premise that criminal punishment should be commensurate with the casualties inflicted, Rep. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), has proposed HR 2436, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The bill would impose penalties on those who harm unborn children while committing federal crimes. It makes no mention of abortion, except to affirm its legality—explicitly exempting any harm done in the course of medical treatment, a voluntary termination, or an act by the woman herself (such as taking drugs).

For abortion-rights activists, however, those assurances aren’t enough. They have reacted with trademark hysteria, reading from a shared script that seems to feature the word "erode" in big bold letters. The ACLU warns that the bill is "designed to erode reproductive freedom,"—i.e., that it means the exact opposite of what it says. NARAL president Kate Michelman predicts that it will "erode the fundamental right of women to choose"—even though it precludes only the right of terrorists to attack pregnant women. And Planned Parenthood claims that the proposed law is "eroding the foundation of a woman's right to choose as set forth in Roe v. Wade"—never mind that in our current political order, the Supreme Court trumps Congress, and not vice versa. If the legislation runs afoul of Roe v. Wade, the courts will waste no time overturning it.

If abortion advocates fear erosion, it’s because they have built their house on sand. Most Americans, regardless of their position on abortion, recognize the real, serious difference between kicking a woman in the stomach to cause her pain and kicking a woman in the stomach to cause her to miscarry. Imposing murder penalties on the latter forces Americans to ask why they find miscarriages resulting from violence so horrific—a question that NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU would rather they did not consider. Instead, the groups try to change the subject by issuing fear-mongering forecasts and unfounded allegations.

When that doesn’t work, they offer easy answers. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D., CA.) proposed an alternative measure, defeated in committee, that would have imposed harsher penalties on criminals who cause a miscarriage, but would not have classified the baby as a separate legal entity. The ACLU likewise "supports punishments that recognize the additional harm a woman suffers due to the loss of her pregnancy," but not the harm done to her unborn child. These quick answers, however, beg the same nagging questions. What, exactly, is the mother losing? Murder laws exist to protect human beings, not sentimental attachments.

In one sense, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU are right. While HR 2436 no more outlaws abortion than it prohibits duck-hunting, it does threaten their interests. By appealing to the public’s intrinsic understanding that a pregnant woman possesses something exquisitely precious, the bill erodes the widespread myth to the contrary—the myth on which the abortion-rights movement is founded. For abortion-rights champions, preserving that myth is the number-one priority, which is why they embrace extremist positions and reject even the most moderate compromises, such as parental-consent laws and banning partial-birth abortion. It is also why the self-proclaimed champions of women’s rights desperately seek to derail legislation that would protect victims like Shawana and Heaven Pace.

Chris Weinkopf is an editorial writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. To read his weekly Daily News column, click here. E-mail him at chris.weinkopf@dailynews.com.

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