The Corner

Another Specter Thing

Specter is trying to get social conservatives to support him on the basis of his having voted for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which declares that assaults on pregnant women that are covered by federal law count as two distinct crimes. Specter also, however, voted for the Feinstein Amendment to that act, which would have recognized only one victim–excluding the unborn child as an entity that can suffer an injury that the law can recognize–but increased the penalties for crimes against pregnant women. What I don’t think I’ve seen anyone explain is that the combination of these two votes (which were also cast by other senators) makes no sense. The only purpose of the bill was to declare that there are two victims. The bill does nothing else. So to vote for an amendment that denies that there are two victims is to vote against the whole concept of the bill. The only explanation I can come up with is that Specter had a difficult political situation because the surviving relatives of pregnant women who had been killed were lobbying for the bill. He did not want to be seen to deny them what they wanted, but he did not want to give it to them either. So he cast an unprincipled set of votes that almost derailed the bill but provided himself with political cover.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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