(CNSNews.com) - Pro-life groups are praising the Senate for passing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act on Thursday, by a vote of 61-38.
The bill recognizes an unborn baby as a victim when that baby is killed or injured during the commission of a federal crime (crimes on a military base or on federal property, for example).
The bill, which passed the House earlier, now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.
While pro-life groups were quick to praise the Senate for its "moral courage," as one supporter put it, Planned Parenthood and other abortion supporters were quick to denounce it.
Planned Parenthood complained that the bill creates "personhood" for unborn babies, by giving "separate legal status to a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus, even if the woman does not know she's pregnant."
The bill defines "child in utero" as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."
The bill explicitly excludes abortion, medical treatment, and any action of the mother herself with respect to her unborn child, but even so, Planned Parenthood sees it as the proverbial "slippery slope."
"The UVVA was created with the sole aim of undermining the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that "the word 'person' -- as used in the Fourteenth Amendment -- does not include the unborn," Planned Parenthood said in a statement.
"This bill elevates the legal status of a fetus to make it equal to that of the adult woman who actually suffers the primary injury. It is part of ongoing attempts to bestow personhood on the fetus by granting it separate legal rights equal to and independent of those of the pregnant woman."
The Family Research Council said the bill recognizes what many people already know: "There are two victims in a crime against a pregnant woman."
FRC President Tony Perkins said his group was proud to work with those who sponsored the bill.
"When President Bush signs the Unborn Victims of Violence Act into law, our nation will be one giant step closer to rebuilding a culture of life, where every child - born and unborn - is given the protections they so clearly deserve," Perkins said.
Focus on the Family Chairman Dr. James Dobson called the bill's passage a pro-life victory: "This vote, and the earlier passage of the federal partial-birth abortion ban, makes this a triumphant year for every American who believes all life is precious," Dobson said.
The National Right to Life Committee noted that according to three national public opinion polls, about 80 percent of the public agrees that crimes such as the murders of Laci and Conner Peterson have two victims - and the assailant should be charged with two homicides.
NRLC also noted that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was among the senators voting against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act on Thursday.
\sb100\sa100"Apparently, John Kerry believes that if a criminal commits a federal crime that injures a pregnant woman and kills her unborn son or daughter, prosecutors should tell the grieving mother that she did not really lose a baby," said Douglas Johnson, NRLC's federal legislative director.
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