Presumably, the bill is H.R.503 of the 107th Congress (2001), rather
than of the present (108th) Congress.
The "causes and factors" that led to the writing of this bill were
delineated in the bill itself and in the House Judiciary Committee's
report on the bill to the House of Representatives, House Rpt.107-042.
The explicit cause, to close a gap in existing criminal law:
"Under current Federal law, an individual who commits a Federal crime
of violence against a pregnant woman receives no additional punishment
for killing or injuring the woman's unborn child during the commission
of the crime. Therefore, except in those States that recognize unborn
children as victims of such crimes, injuring or killing an unborn
child during the commission of a violent crime has no legal
H.R. 503, the `Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001,' was designed
to narrow this gap in the law by providing that an individual who
injures or kills an unborn child during the commission of certain
Federal crimes of violence will be guilty of a separate offense. The
punishment for that separate offense is the same as the punishment
provided under Federal law had the same injury or death resulted to
the pregnant woman. If the perpetrator commits the predicate offense
with the intent to kill the unborn child, the punishment for that
offense is the same as the punishment provided under Federal law for
intentionally killing or attempting to kill a human being."
Implicit cause, to create a new rule in Federal statute:
"I. CURRENT FEDERAL LAW
A. The `Born Alive' Rule
Federal law does not currently permit prosecution of violent criminals
for killing or injuring unborn children. Instead, Federal criminal
statutes incorporate the common law `born alive' rule, which provides
that a criminal may be prosecuted for killing an unborn child only if
the child was born alive after the assault and later died as a result
of the fetal injuries. 2
[Footnote 2: See United States v. Spencer, 839 F.2d 1341 (9th Cir.
The born alive rule has been rendered obsolete by progress in science
and medicine, however. As one commentator explains, `the historical
basis of the born alive rule was developed out of a lack of
sophisticated medical knowledge.' 3
[Footnote] Because pregnancy was difficult to determine, the common
law recognized that live birth was the most reliable means of ensuring
that a woman was with child and that the child was in fact a living
Based upon the new rule that would be created, inferential factors
that led to the writing of the bill would include tendentious rather
than legal motivations which were attributed to the authors and
sponsors by the dissenters to the bill.
"We should have no illusions about the purposes of this bill, that it
is yet another battle in a war of symbols in the abortion debate, in
which opponents of a womans constitutional right to choose attempt to
portray fetuses, from the earliest moments of development, as
children, the same rights as the adult women who are carrying them.
The implication is that anyone who does not share the meta-physical
slant, the metaphysical slant of the radical anti-choice movement that
a two-celled blastocyst is a person on exactly the same basis and with
the same rights as any child or adult must secretly favor infanticide.
This bill, by making the destruction of a fetus or even of a zygote a
separate crime of murder, without any reference to the possible harm
to the pregnant woman speaks volumes about that view. If causing a
miscarriage is murder, then, by implication, so is abortion, the
Supreme Court never mind. Even if the sponsors have papered over this
premise with language to the contrary, no one should be under any
illusions that this is the real purpose of this bill." (Rep. Nadler's
(NY) remarks in House Rpt.107-042.)
The impact of the bill on abortion rights issues is speculative. The
bill explicitly excludes from prosecution any legal and voluntary
termination of pregnancy.
"H.R. 503 specifically exempts 'conduct for which the consent of the
pregnant woman has been obtained or for which such consent is implied
by law.' The bill also exempts conduct related to medical treatment of
the pregnant woman or her unborn child, or conduct of the pregnant
woman with respect to her unborn child. The bill further provides that
the death penalty shall not be imposed." (House Rpt.107-042)
" '(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the
'(1) of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for
the consent of the pregnant woman, or a person authorized by
to act on her behalf, has been obtained or for which such
is implied by law;
'(2) of any person for any medical treatment of the pregnant
or her unborn child; or
'(3) of any woman with respect to her unborn child.
`(d) As used in this section, the term 'unborn child' means a
utero, and the term 'child in utero' or 'child, who is in utero'
a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of
is carried in the womb.'."
(Text of bill.)
However, the creation of a new rule to replace the "born alive" common
law rule with Federal statute might create, as Representative Nadler
proposes, a statutory basis for a challenge to the right of voluntary
termination of pregnancy. Whether the proposition is valid and correct
is moot. Following Rep. Nadler's speculative line of reasoning, it
might form the basis of further laws that could be drafted that would
limit the exercise of that right in particular forms. Also, as Rep.
Nadler notes, the bill extends the definition of child to any unborn
child in any stage of development, regardless of viability, an
extension that is unjustifiable by current Constitutional
interpretation, and could lead to challenges in Federal Court,
possibly being appealed to the Supreme Court, where the outcome would
Searched the Congressional WWW site at the Library of Congress for
Bills for the current (108th - 2003) Congress were not relevant to the
question. Extending the search to the previous (107th - 2001) Congress
found the bill.
House Committee on the Judiciary Report, House Rpt.107-042
House Rpt.107-042 - UNBORN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE ACT OF 2001
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY
Search Full Text of Bills - 10th Congress
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Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001 (Engrossed as Agreed to or
Passed by House)
HR 503 EH