May 07 2003

Senators Graham, DeWine, and Hatch Push for Senate Passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today called on the U.S. Senate to pass S. 146, The Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA).

Under current federal law, an individual who commits a federal crime of violence against a pregnant woman receives no additional punishment for killing or injuring the woman’s unborn child. Under the UVVA, if an unborn child is injured or killed during the commission of an already-defined federal crime of violence, the assailant could be charged with a separate offense on behalf of the unborn child.

The UVVA would apply this principle to over 60 existing federal laws dealing with acts of violence. These federal laws affect federal geographical jurisdictions, the military justice system, protection of federal officials, and specific acts defined by law as federal crimes.

“I think, regardless of pro-life or pro-choice feelings, that most Americans want to protect the unborn from violence against criminals,” said Graham. “When a woman chooses to have her child, a criminal should not take that away from her.”

As an example, Graham noted a situation where a pregnant woman visiting Capitol Hill is assaulted and loses her unborn child. Since the Capitol is under Federal jurisdiction and there is currently no law on the federal books, the assailant could only be held accountable for the crime against the mother. The assailant would face no charge or receive no punishment for the harm done to the unborn child.

“I believe most Americans want to protect life as much as possible," said Graham. “People who want to turn this into an abortion debate have an irrational view. The purpose of this bill is very simple: Once the woman chooses to have the child and someone takes that child away from her through an assault or an act of violence, we want to put them in jail for the damage done to the unborn child.”

The UVVA specifically exempts abortions from the list of prosecutable offenses. The bill does not permit prosecution: (1) for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman has been obtained or for which consent is implied by law in a medical emergency; (2) for conduct relating to any medical treatment of the pregnant woman or her unborn child; or (3) of any woman with respect to her unborn child.

The legislation, twice introduced by Graham while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and twice passed by that body in a bipartisan manner, has never been debated or voted on in the U.S. Senate.

“There is a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives committed to closing this scandalous gap in federal law,” said Graham. “Twice this has passed the House with more than 250 votes in support this measure. I think it shows the bill isn’t about abortion but holding criminals accountable for their actions and protecting pregnant women to the fullest extent of the law.”

Graham noted all six members, 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats, of the South Carolina delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in support of the UVVA in 2001.

President Bush has also said he will sign the measure into law when it passes Congress. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said last month, “The president does believe that when an unborn child is injured or killed during the commission of a crime of violence, the law should recognize what most people immediately recognize, and that is that such a crime has two victims. … But if you recall, the House of Representatives passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, and it passed overwhelmingly with large bipartisan support. We hope that the Congress again this year -- the president calls on the House and calls on the Senate to again pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act so that the law can recognize what every mother, father, know in their heart when a unborn child is taken through an act of violence in the commission of a crime, just as we've seen in this case here.”

Unborn Victims of Violence Act: Some Cases of Homicides of Unborn Children under Federal or Military Jurisdiction

  • Deanna Mitts and her 3-year old daughter Kayla were killed by a pipe bomb and the assailant was sentenced to life in prison. Mitts was seven months pregnant when she died and prosecutors said her assailant, Joseph Minerd, killed her because she would not have an abortion. DNA tests later showed the unborn child was Minerd’s. No charges were brought for the crime against the unborn child.
  • Sgt. Timothy Ward, a soldier serving at the Helemano Military Reservation in Honolulu, was convicted in January 2000 of premeditated murder in the death of his wife, Bianca Ward, who was in the latter stages of pregnancy at the time of her death. Her unborn child did not survive. The cause of death was severe head trauma although there were also several puncture wounds. He has been dishonorably discharged and has been sentenced to 35 years of confinement. No charges were brought to the harm done to their unborn child.
  • Ruth Croston was five months pregnant on April 21, 1998, when she was killed by her estranged husband, Reginald Anthony Falice, at a Charlotte, N.C. intersection as she sat in her car. She and her unborn daughter died after being shot at least five times by Falice, who had been living in Atlanta. He was prosecuted in federal court for interstate domestic violence and using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. No charges were brought for the killing of the unborn baby girl.
  • On September 12, 1996, at Wright-Patterson AFB, Airman Gregory Robbins assaulted his wife, Karlene, who was eight months pregnant with their daughter, Jasmine. He covered his fist with a t-shirt and repeatedly struck her in the face and abdomen. Due to the assault, Karlene's uterus ruptured and expelled Jasmine into the abdominal cavity and she died. The Air Force prosecutor assimilated charges from an Ohio statute which makes it a crime to kill an unborn child and he pled guilty to assault and battery upon his pregnant wife and involuntary manslaughter for the death of Jasmine.
  • On April 19, 1995, Carrie Lenz, a Drug Enforcement Agency secretary, was showing coworkers ultrasound pictures of her unborn child at six months when the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by a bomb. Just the day before the horrific bombing, she and her husband learned by the ultrasound that they were having a boy and named him Michael James Lenz III.
  • Monica Smith was a secretary who was pregnant when she was killed in the World Trade Center bombing in New York on February 26, 1993. Her unborn child was not among the six listed victims of the explosion.