WASHINGTON—Pro-lifers are calling it a “huge victory.” The House voted 254-172 Sept. 30 to pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which recognizes preborn children as victims under federally prohibited crimes of violence.

“The bill simply put federal law behind the common sense recognition that when a criminal attacks a pregnant woman, and injures or kills her unborn child, he has claimed two human victims,” said Douglas Johnson, who is legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.

Supporters of the bill, authored by Rep. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., maintain that it does offer greater protections for the parents of the child. “The law must account for the grief of parents who have suffered due to the death or injury of their preborn child as a result of violence,” said Janet Parshall, chief spokesperson for the Family Research Council.

Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, lambasted the bill. “[T]his legislation is not meant to provide greater protections for pregnant women, nor to fight crimes against them, but to forge new legal ground that would eventually undermine Roe vs. Wade,” she said in a statement.

Although the bill did not address the legality of abortion, pro-lifers acknowledged a main purpose for the bill would be to establish full legal rights to all human beings — born or preborn.

“Abortion is legal for now,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said on the House floor during debate, “but that shouldn't mean that murderers, muggers and rapists should also have the same unfettered ability to maim or kill an unborn child without consequence.”

Smith criticized the abortion lobby. “At all costs, abortion advocates must cling to the self-serving fiction that unborn babies are something other than human and alive,” Rep. Smith said. “By systematically debasing the value of these children, it has become easier for adults to procure the violent deaths of these little ones if they happen to be unwanted, unplanned or imperfect.”

The bill now moves to the Senate, which will likely not have time to address the bill before adjourning for the year. In that case, the bill would likely have a vote in February, say sources close to the issue.