Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi


Pelosi Opposes Republican Attack on a Woman's Right to Choose

April 26, 2001

On Thursday, the House considered the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” which creates a new federal crime for the death of, or bodily injury to, a “child who is in utero” or an “unborn child.” The bill is designed to undermine Roe v. Wade because it would endow legal rights to fetuses by recognizing them as potential crime victims. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is opposed to the bill. The Lofgren substitute provides enhanced penalties for perpetrators of violent crimes against pregnant women without undermining a woman’s right to choose.

Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, John Conyers (D-MI) for their great leadership on this issue. The Democratic substitute is masterful because it answers the concerns that are posed by the sponsors of the original bill to expand penalties for those who commit violence against pregnant women, and it does so in a way that achieves that goal but is constitutional.

We can all agree that acts of violence against pregnant women are reprehensible and should be punished. We all agree that acts of violence that harm a fetus are obviously unacceptable and repulsive to us. We can all agree that we must prevent violence against women whether pregnant or not.

The gentleman from New Jersey, Congressman Chris Smith (D-NJ) asked the question how could otherwise intelligent, caring people come to the floor and oppose this legislation? He said, could it be that we could ignore violence against a pregnant woman? We are not ignoring it. The Lofgren substitute addresses it very directly without doing violence to the issue. The substitute would create a separate Federal criminal offense for harm to pregnant women, but would not confer new legal status on the fetus.

So I respond to my colleague, could it be that, as a woman, I know a little bit more about this subject than maybe he does? Could it be that as a mother of five, a grandmother of four, and hopefully more grandchildren to come, that I understand how reprehensible violence against a pregnant woman is?

If that is the issue, the Democratic substitute has responded to it. The bill on the floor is unconstitutional. It is a move to undo, which it cannot do, unless it is a constitutional amendment, but it is an attempt to undo Roe v. Wade. In 1973, we all know the Supreme Court stated that the unborn have never been recognized in the laws as persons in the whole sense. The Court specifically rejected the theory that grants personage to the fetus because it may override the rights of pregnant women that are at stake. I urge my colleagues to accept the solution that is here, that addresses the problem in a constitutional way, and does not do violence to a woman's rights

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