The US Senate voted has voted to make it a separate offence to harm a foetus during a violent crime, in a victory for those seeking to expand the legal rights of the unborn.
The 61-38 vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act sends the legislation, after a five-year battle in Congress, to President George Bush for his signature. The White House said in a statement that it “strongly supports protection for unborn children”. The House passed the bill last month.
Senate majority leader Bill Frist said the bill was ”powerful because this act is about simple humanity, about simple reality”.
But pro-abortion politicians argued that giving a foetus from the point of conception the same legal rights as its mother in criminal cases set a precedent that could be used in future legal challenges to abortion rights.
It was the second big win for social conservatives pushing protections for the unborn following enactment of the so-called partial birth abortion ban last year. That ban is now tied up in the courts.
The Senate cleared the way for passage with a 50-49 vote to defeat an amendment, backed by opponents of the bill, that would have increased penalties, but maintained that an attack on a pregnant woman was a single-victim crime.