Momentum in defending human life in the womb may be shifting. On April 1 President Bush signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R. 1997). The administration is also vigorously defending in federal courts the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

H.R. 1997 represents the first time the U.S. government has recognized a human embryo or fetus as an individual. The law makes it a federal offense to injure or kill an unborn child during the commission of a federal crime.

"It's very significant," said Wendy Wright, senior policy director at Concerned Women for America. "For the last 30 years, the law has been silent on the issue of forced abortion by a third party."

Clark Forsythe, president of Americans United For Life, predicted the new law, known as "Laci and Conner's Law," would influence bills in state legislatures. Currently 31 states have fetal homicide bills. However, only 16 of those protect the unborn child at all stages of gestation, according to AUL. The new law applies to crimes committed on federal property and in areas subject to federal jurisdiction. It is not known how many such cases occur annually.

Concerning the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, in late March federal district courts in San Francisco, Omaha, and New York each began trials to determine whether the ban conforms to the Supreme Court's June 2000 ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart. That ruling struck down a similar Nebraska law and invalidated laws in 29 other states.

At issue is whether the U.S. Justice Department can prove that the federal ban would outlaw only one type of abortion method, called intact dilation and extraction. In this procedure, a child's head is pulled from its mother's birth canal and crushed, with the brain subsequently sucked out. ...

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