WASHINGTON (AP) — Accompanied by grieving families,
President Bush yesterday signed into law new protections for the
unborn that for the first time make it a separate federal crime to
harm a fetus during an assault on the mother.

From the AP
President Bush, seated center, signs the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House yesterday. Among the many people with him are several members of Congress and abortion opponents. (AP PHOTO)

“If the crime is murder and the unborn child’s life
ends, justice demands a full accounting under the law,” Bush
said before signing the measure, a major priority for many of the
president’s most loyal political supporters. “The
suffering of two victims can never equal only one
offense.”

Abortion-rights proponents, meanwhile, called the measure an
assault on reproductive freedom because it represents the first
recognition of federal legal rights for an embryo or fetus as a
person separate from the woman.

An exuberant audience of abortion foes cheered the president
during his remarks, while a few of the family members who shared
the East Room stage wiped away tears. Included in the group were
the mother and stepfather of California murder victim Laci
Peterson, who was eight months pregnant when she died in December
2002 in a highly publicized case.

Bush devoted a large share of his speech to the loss of “a
beautiful young woman who was joyfully awaiting the arrival of a
new son.” Peterson’s mother, Sharon Rocha, and
stepfather, Ron Grantski, looked on.

“All who knew Laci Peterson have mourned two deaths. And
the law cannot look away and pretend there was just one,”
Bush said.

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