Communications Department

NRLC Letter to U.S. House Regarding Innocent Child Protection Act

Jul 20, 2000 | ICPA

Re: Innocent Child Protection Act (H.R. 4888)

Dear Member of Congress:

We are writing to urge you to support the Innocent Child Protection Act

(H.R. 4888), introduced by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The bill, only two sentences long, has a very simple purpose: to codify the innocent child principle regarding the death penalty. This long-accepted principle holds that the government must never kill an innocent unborn child in the course of carrying out a sentence of death. The innocent child principle was recently implicitly contradicted by Vice President Gore, who said, AThe principle of a woman=s right to choose governs in that case.@ (New York Times, July 18, 2000. Please see the attachment.)

Gore=s Apro-choice@ position on execution of innocent unborn children by the government contradicts the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. joined in 1976. That treaty flatly says, “Sentence of death . . . shall not be carried out on pregnant women.” There is, of course, only one rationale for that absolute prohibition — the recognition that execution of a pregnant woman would kill an innocent unborn child. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Union Pacific Railway v. Botsford (1891), the common law prohibited execution of a pregnant woman “to guard against the taking of the life of an unborn child for the crime of the mother.”

In 1994, Congress explicitly extended the innocent child principle to federal executions by enactment of 18 U.S.C.A. Sect. 3596, but that law does not apply to the vast majority of executions, which are conducted by state governments. Enactment of HR 4888 would extend the innocent child principle to state administration of their death penalties.

This bill does not reflect any point of view on the desirability or appropriateness of imposing capital punishment on persons convicted of premeditated murder or other grave crimes — an issue on which the National Right to Life Committee takes no position. Nor does this bill have anything to do with other bills that deal with DNA evidence or other issues pertaining to the actual guilt of a person who has been convicted of a capital crime. This bill simply recognizes (1) most states and the federal government do currently impose capital punishment for certain crimes, but (2) no child in utero can possibly be guilty of a crime, therefore (3) Congress should prevent the government from taking the life of an innocent child in utero by prohibiting, within all U.S. jurisdictions, any death sentence from being carried out while a woman convicted of a capital crime carries a child in utero.

In recent years, there have been 40 to 50 women at a time under state-imposed death sentences. While it may seem unlikely that a woman on death row would become pregnant, women do become pregnant even in maximum-security facilities B a point made in recent years by pro-abortion lawmakers in their unsuccessful efforts to repeal the ban on funding of abortion by the Bureau of Prisons. As Rep. Woolsey said on the House floor on June 22, “We know that women become pregnant in prison, from rape or from having a relationship with one of the guards.@ (Congressional Record, page H5024)

H.R. 4888 poses only one simple question: should the government execute an unborn child who has committed no crime? Whether you are for or against the death penalty, whether you are for or against legal abortion, we hope that you will answer that question with an unequivocal No by supporting the Innocent Child Protection Act.


Douglas Johnson

Legislative Director

Attachment: NRLC factsheet, AShould An Innocent Unborn Child Be Executed? Key Points on the Innocent Child Protection Act (H.R. 4888)@

Categories: ICPA