The True Intent of the Unborn Victims of Violence Acts

This post originally appeared on RH Reality Check

On Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Kansas became the 30th state to sign into law an Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA), making it a crime to intentionally harm a fetus (an addendum that champions the fetus while entirely discounting the life and health of the pregnant woman). The legislation (called "Alexa's Law") allows for prosecutors to charge an alleged perpetrator with only one crime now -- intentionally harming a fetus completely ignoring the pregnant woman. There can be no doubt that legislating punishment for crimes against pregnant women, in an attempt to provide a modicum of justice for the families of these victims, is a priority for many citizens of this country. So what is the goal with this particular law and similar ones enacted around the country? Is it to reduce the number of violent crimes against pregnant women and their children yet to be born? Is it to bring violent criminals to justice?

In fact, in Kansas, this law repeals statutes already on the books that criminalize injury inflicted upon a pregnant woman. Twelve years ago, Kansas enacted "Motherhood Protection" laws (K.S.A. 21-3440 and K.S.A. 21-3441) that, according to the reproductive justice advocacy organization ProKanDo, "recognize the particularly heinous nature of crimes against pregnant women by providing separate criminal charges for those who interrupt a pregnancy in the commission of a crime." These laws were put into place over a decade ago as the result of anti-choice advocates who, at the time, desperately wanted a UVVA in Kansas. What they got instead were laws that heightened the consequences of intentionally harming pregnant women, recognizing the atrocious nature of this type of crime, without defining fetuses as full people.

Fast forward to 2007 when anti-choice advocates in Kansas were finally able to pass the full UVVA that mirrored their ideology while serving their political purposes. Kansas' law, according to Julie Burkhardt, executive director of ProKanDo, "contains extreme language when talking about life beginning at fertilization or conception -- similar to about fifteen other states' UVV laws." So what reason can there be for repealing legislation already in place that ensures that perpetrators of violence against pregnant women will be prosecuted uniquely for their crimes? And why did the law pass now -- with a pro-choice Governor and five failed attempts in previous years? There may be many reasons; though none have anything to do with justice, protection or concern for the victims of violent crimes.

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