LITTLE ROCK — A bill that would allow a woman to use physical force or deadly force to protect her unborn child from an attack cleared a House committee on Tuesday, though some members questioned whether the measure would make any real change to current law.

The House Judiciary Committee gave a "do pass" recommendation to Senate Bill 170 by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, after some discussion.

"You’ve got to go through the mother and hurt her somehow (to hurt a fetus), so what does this bill do that a woman can’t already do?" asked Rep. Marshall Wright, D-Forrest City, the committee’s chairman.

Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, who presented the bill in the committee, answered, "Currently, if a person were to come up to a woman and say, ‘I’m not looking to do any permanent damage, all I’m going to do is terminate the pregnancy and I’m going to punch you in the stomach,’ and the woman were to defend herself using force, she could legally be held liable for that force."

Ballinger acknowledged that prosecution of the woman would be unlikely in such a situation but said that "frankly, all the attorneys in this room and most other people have seen absurdities in the law happen before."

The panel endorsed the bill in a voice vote with no "no" votes heard. The bill, which passed last week in the Senate 35-0, advances to the House.