Gingrich distorted Kerry's vote on Unborn Victims of Violence Act


As a guest on the July 15 edition of Sean Hannity's radio program, FOX News Channel political contributor Newt Gingrich expanded on a misleading attack against Senator John Kerry (D-MA) made in a recent Bush-Cheney '04 campaign ad when he criticized Kerry for voting against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (pdf). In so doing, Gingrich misrepresented both the law -- which defines an "unborn child" not simply as one that is "viable," as Gingrich claims, but much more broadly -- as well as Kerry's position on the issue.

The law -- nicknamed "Laci and Conner's Law," in reference to the murder of Laci Peterson -- actually "increase[s] penalties for violence against a 'child in utero' by making it a separate federal offense when the mother is the victim of certain federal crimes of violence," according to the Annenberg Political Fact Check.

From the July 15 edition of ABC Radio Network's The Sean Hannity Show:

GINGRICH: John Kerry voted against protecting babies who are killed by violent criminals if they're viable in the last months of pregnancy -- the Laci Peterson case. ... [I]t basically said if a violent criminal happens while attacking a pregnant woman to kill her child and the child was viable -- that is, it would've lived outside the womb, then the criminal could be charged with an additional crime.

Gingrich's suggestion that the new law would apply to "babies who are ... viable in the last months of pregnancy ... that is, it would've lived outside the womb" misrepresents the law (pdf), which actually defines an "unborn child" as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb." It was this controversial definition that prompted 35 Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent to vote against the law in the Senate, out of concern that "it may open the door to an erosion of reproductive rights by assigning a separate legal status to an 'unborn child,'" according to a July 8 Reuters article.

In fact, as The Washington Post reported on July 8, Kerry did vote for an amendment to the law offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would have "increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women -- including murder charges if the fetus is killed -- without defining an 'unborn child.'" This measure was defeated 50 to 49.

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Health Care, Reproductive Rights
2004 Elections
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