The Virginia House of Delegates voted 66 to 32 in favor of a “personhood bill,” sponsored by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), which states that life begins at conception and would give rights to a fertilized egg. The bill proposes to give “unborn children at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth.” An amendment to state explicitly that the Personhood legislation did not outlaw contraception was voted down 64-34. The personhood bill will now go to the state Senate where Republicans and Democrats hold an equal number of seats. Republican Governor Bob McDonnell has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.
Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) added, “I cannot sit quietly today and do nothing while this body decides what rights will be stripped away from my daughter and others in regard to their own health. I do not want to see a day when the only option for women and men to obtain the contraception of their choice is to leave our state and go to Washington DC or Maryland.”
Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, stated, “This is a giant step backwards for our Commonwealth. This bill could undermine the ability of the 1.7 million Virginia women of reproductive age and their families to make personal and private decisions. With the word ‘person’ appearing more than 25,000 times in the Virginia code, this legislation has far-reaching and unforeseen immediate consequences including the possibility of changing tax, property, and probate law as well as interfering with doctors’ ability to treat miscarriages.”
If passed in the Senate and signed by the Governor, the law would directly challenge the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the US and perhaps Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down state laws banning birth control.
Associated Press 2/15/12; Reuters 2/14/12; NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Statement 2/10/12; Washington Post 2/10/12; Feminist Daily Newswire11/22/11