The Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-212) is a United States law which recognizes a child in utero as a legal victim, if he or she is injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed federal crimes of violence. The law defines "child in utero" as "a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb".
The law is codified in two sections of the United States Code: Title 18, Chapter 1 (Crimes), §1841 (18 USC 1841) and Title 10, Chapter 22 (Uniform Code of Military Justice) §919a (Article 119a).
The law applies only to certain offenses over which the United States government has jurisdiction, including certain crimes committed on Federal properties, against certain Federal officials and employees, and by members of the military. In addition, it covers certain crimes that are defined by statute as federal offenses wherever they occur, no matter who commits them, such as certain crimes of terrorism.
Because of principles of federalism embodied in the United States Constitution, Federal criminal law does not apply to crimes prosecuted by the individual states. However, 36 states also recognize the fetus or "unborn child" as a crime victim, at least for purposes of homicide or feticide.
The legislation was both hailed and vilified by various legal observers who interpreted the measure as a step toward granting legal personhood to human fetuses, even though the bill explicitly contained a provision excepting abortion, stating that the bill would not "be construed to permit the prosecution" "of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman, or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf", "of any person for any medical treatment of the pregnant woman or her unborn child" or "of any woman with respect to her unborn child."
Unborn Victims of Violence Act - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia