On July 24, the House Judiciary Committee approved, 25-2, a bill (H.R. 2175) that would change the definition of an individual under the U.S. criminal code. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), the bill states that “the words ‘person,’ ‘human being,’ ‘child,’ and ‘individual,’ shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.” During the 106th Congress, a similar bill was approved, 380-15, by the House on September 26, 2000, but was not considered by the Senate. A version of the Senate companion bill (S. 1050) was recently included in the Senate-passed patients’ bill of rights (S. 1052) (see The Source, 6/29/01, p. 1).
Although no amendments were offered, members of the committee briefly debated the merits of the bill. Rep. Chabot argued, “This truly is a bill of compassion….A bill that says that all children are important.” He added that 30 states and the District of Columbia have similar statutes in place. However, “recent changes in the cultural and political landscape threaten this principle,” he stated, referring to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision Stenberg v. Carhart, which declared a Nebraska law prohibiting partial-birth abortion unconstitutional.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called the legislation “unnecessary” but “harmless,” while Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) stated that there were over 70,000 references in the U.S. code and other federal regulations to individuals. “We don’t know what this bill would do….For example, what implication does it have for inheritance laws?”