Assaults and anomalies

Under current federal law, an individual who assaults a pregnant woman receives no punishment for any harm done to the unborn child. That the woman being assaulted is carrying a child in her womb is no more relevant in the eyes of the law than the fact that she is brown-haired or blue-eyed.

This account of the situation is morally inadequate. It runs counter to our intuitive sense that—however we describe the fetus—more than one life is battered in such an assault, and that the death of an unborn child constitutes a real loss. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which passed the House of Representatives in April, addresses this situation by specifying that assailants may also be charged for the injury or death caused to the child in utero. Fetuses too can be victims.


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