Communications Department

Excerpts from Senate floor debate on the Feinstein single-victim substitute

Mar 25, 2004 | Unborn Victims of Violence

Excerpts from Senate floor debate
on the Feinstein single-victim substitute
 March 25, 2004
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), author of the “single-victim substitute”]:  Everything will be the same [in her bill] except a few simple words that inject the abortion debate into this issue by clearly establishing in criminal law for the first time in history that life begins at the moment of conception.  I contend that if this result is incorporated in law, it will be the first step in removing a woman’s right to choice, particularly in the early months of a pregnancy before viability.
Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), chief Senate sponsor of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act:  [The Feinstein Substitute] twists the reality of the common sense of people when they look at this. When they see a pregnant woman who is assaulted and her child dies, they intuitively know there is a victim besides the mother. They know the mother is a victim, but they also know there is a second victim.  The vast majority of the American people, if you ask them was there another victim, will say of course there are two victims. Our bill recognizes the second victim. The Feinstein Amendment refuses to recognize the second victim.. . . If you believe there is a second victim, you cannot vote for the Feinstein amendment. It denies there is a second victim.
Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks.):  When her mother’s heart stopped, her in utero child does not die instantly. Instead, the in utero baby dies slower. When the mother’s heart stops beating, the baby begins to suffocate for lack of oxygen. The baby can feel. The baby is in pain. At four minutes, the baby begins to suffer severe neurological damage. The process gets worse.  [Unborn victim] Ashley Nichole would have finally died 15 minutes after her mother Christina had been shot and killed.  Look at this photo again of Christina and Ashley in the coffin.  Is there one victim? Or are there two?  Who will say there is only one victim in this coffin?  Yet this substitute amendment we are considering will say there is only one victim.  [To this, Senator Feinstein responded, “It is extraordinarily difficult to respond to the litany of atrocities the Senator from Kansas has just enumerated.”]
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who originally authored the Unborn Victims of Violence Act as a U.S. House member in 1999:  Prior to getting into politics, from 1982 to 1988, I served as a prosecutor and a defense attorney in the U.S. Air Force domestically and overseas. During that experience, I realized at the Federal level there was a gap in law.  We had a case involving a pregnant woman who was beaten up, and her child was lost, and she was almost killed. I looked into the idea of charging the offender with the damage done to the unborn child, and under the Uniform Code of Military Justice there was no way to do that. So I was sensitive to it from a prosecutor’s point of view early on in my legal career.
Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wi.):  I will oppose H.R. 1997, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act . . . [which] would make it a federal crime to injure or kill a fetus during the commission of a federal crime against a pregnant woman. This separate offense would be punished as if injury or death had occurred to the pregnant woman. I believe that acts of violence against pregnant women are deplorable and should be punished severely. Congress has taken and should continue to take steps to protect women from violence and prosecute those who attack them.  But I am concerned that by recognizing the fetus as an entity against which a separate crime can be committed, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act may undermine women’s reproductive rights as set forth by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.