U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel said Friday’s passage of a bill that creates a separate offense for harming or killing an unborn child protects the most vulnerable in society.
Hagel co-sponsored the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which passed by a vote of 61-38. The bill now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.
Both Hagel and Nebraska's other senator, Ben Nelson, voted for the bill.
The bill only applies to federal crimes, such as the drug trade or acts on federal land, like military bases. In those cases, the legislation would make violence against a pregnant woman two separate crimes - one harming the woman and another against her unborn child.
Opponents said the real significance of the bill is that it gives a fetus the same legal status as the mother - something they see as a dangerous precedent.
The White House and other backers of the bill said they strongly support protection for the unborn.