PASSES UNBORN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE ACT
After a five year battle in Congress, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act was passed by a vote in the Senate yesterday. This legislation, expected to be signed by President Bush, will make it a separate crime to harm a fetus during commission of a violent federal crime. The bill covers 68 crimes allegedly falling under federal jurisdiction such as drug related shootings, violence at an international airport and crimes on a military base.
Because this bill involves a baby, both sides of the abortion issue weighed in on how this law would either help or hinder the abortion issue. Prominent pro abortion advocate, Senator Diane Feinstein, worried that this bill was was "the first step in removing a woman's right to choice, particularly in the early months of a pregnancy before viability." Feinstein also said it could chill embryonic stem cell research.
Supporters of the legislation maintain that the bill recognizes that there are two victims of a violent crime when the woman is pregnant at the time the crime is committed. Congressman Bill Frist, R-Tenn, stated that the bill as "powerful because this act is about simple humanity, about simple reality."
Opponents of this bill complain that more and more politicians have taken up the practice of legislating based on emotion or highly publicized human tragedies. In the case of this particular legislation, the mother and step father of murder victims Lacy Peterson and her unborn son, Connor, became the rallying cry to get this legislation passed.
Only the most hardened or emotionally dead individual doesn't feel the unbearable pain that Laci Peterson's family has endured since their daughter went missing December 24, 2002. Half the people of this country cried their hearts out when Laci and baby Connor's corpses were found washed up on a beach in the San Francisco Bay. The fact that Laci was only six weeks from giving birth to her first child, a son, certainly raised the level of devastation for the family. Parents aren't supposed to out live their children and every parent on this earth silently prays that they will never be that next family who buries a child - especially in a case like Laci Peterson where the body wasn't recovered for months, along with a dead grandchild.
However, some question the appropriateness - especially at the federal level - for Congress to consider legislation when emotions run high and everyone wants the killer(s) to suffer as much or more than their loved ones did. In the case of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, Congress appears to have acted in response to human emotion instead of constitutional guidelines in passing yet another piece of legislation to federalize certain crimes.
Under Art. 1, Sec. 8 of the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, Congress can only legislate in very narrow areas. There are only four categories of actions that unequivocally qualify as federal crimes under the U.S. Constitution: (1) piracy and felonies on the high seas, (2) treason, (3) offenses against the laws of nature, and (4) counterfeiting.
There is interesting historical significance relating to the above regarding the 1798 'Second American Revolution' over the Alien & Sedition Act in which Thomas Jefferson and James Madison revolted against Congress overstepping its legislative authority. That episode in American history is also germane today regarding the so-called 'Patriot Act.' Jefferson had some strong words about what is and isn't a federal crime under the U.S.
In the case of Lopez v United States, the respondent, then a 12th-grade student, carried a concealed handgun into his high school. He was charged with violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which forbids "any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that [he] knows . . . is a school zone." Simply, Lopez was charged under federal law for bringing a gun near a 'school zone.'
In Lopez v United States, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision was constitutionally razor sharp: Congress had overstepped its legislative authority in passing a law regarding the proximity of a gun within a certain distance from a school. Congress tried to use the Commerce clause relating to interstate commerce in order to justify this law. The Court succinctly pointed out that this sort of police action falls under the rights of a state.
Constitutional hawks claim that the Unborn Victims of Violence Act appears to be another glaring example of Congress overstepping their legislative authority. The murder of anyone, pregnant or not, is heinous, but the authority to try and punish the alleged perpetrator cannot be adjudicated at the federal level. It is and always has been under the U.S. Constitution, a state matter under the Tenth Amendment.
This continued barrage of more laws the better has become a great concern for millions of Americans who feel that for the past forty years, Congress hasn't given even a passing thought to trampling on the Tenth Amendment and the rights of the states. With the continued assault of the rights of Americans and the massive power grab by the federal government, many Americans wonder why the law making bodies of the states (legislatures), seem perfectly willing to sit back and not challenge these unconstitutional laws being forced upon their sovereign citizens?
While millions of caring Americans mourn the loss of Laci, Connor and the tens of thousands of other murder victims, constitutionalists maintain there is no joy or victory today over Congress' passing of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act because this legislation doesn't pass constitutional muster and President Bush should refuse to sign it. The State of California is already trying the alleged murderer, husband, Scott Peterson and that is the proper jurisdiction for justice regarding these terrible crimes.
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"Supporters of the legislation maintain that the bill recognizes that there are two victims of a violent crime when the woman is pregnant at the time the crime is committed."