US President George W. Bush this week signed a law confirming the rights of foetuses by making it a crime to harm an "unborn child" while committing a violent crime against a pregnant woman. The measure has also been dubbed "Laci and Conner's Law" after the highly-publicised murder of a pregnant California woman.
The legislation, which had sailed through the US House and the Senate, is being criticised by abortion-rights activists for opening a door to a ban on abortion. Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that the law ignored domestic violence and was "part of a deceptive anti-choice strategy to make women's bodies mere vessels by creating legal personhood for the foetus".
The new law opened up another front in this year's campaign for the US presidency. Openly appealing to his pro-life constituency, Mr Bush declared that he was widening "the circle of compassion and inclusion in our society" and reaffirming that the US was "building a culture of life". His Democrat opponent, Senator John Kerry, on the other hand, interrupted his campaign to make a rare appearance in the Senate to vote against the bill. He was later endorsed by Kate Michelman, a leading abortion rights spokesperson, as "a president pro-choice Americans can rely on".
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