In Session

In Session

Personhood in Virginia

Abortion has sparked some of the sharpest exchanges in the General Assembly session this year, with two controversial bills making it out of the House of Delegates at the halfway point this week. Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) introduced the symbolically important House Bill 1, an indication of its significance among the Republican leadership. The effort, known as the Personhood Bill, would effectively outlaw all Virginia abortions by declaring that the rights of persons apply from the moment sperm and egg unite.

“We're talking about inside a woman's body,” said Del. Charnielle Herring (D-46) during the debate on the House floor. “This is the first time, if we pass this bill, that we will be dictating a medical procedure to a physician.”

For years, Marshall's bill has passed the House only to become bogged down in the Senate. Now that Republicans are in charge of the upper chamber, it stands to survive a Senate under new conservative control. Republicans said opponents were alarmists who were exaggerating the consequences.

“I would suggest the claim that there are a vast field unintended consequences because of the word person is sorely misplaced,” said Marshall. “For example, if a person's going to be given a ticket for driving 80 mph, I would suggest that it probably doesn't apply to the child before birth.”

The measure passed on a 66-32 vote.

No Consent Needed

The effort to require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound has also sparked some of the most heated debate in Richmond this year. Earlier in the session, Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) introduced an amendment that would have required a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before men could obtain a prescription for erectile dysfunction. That amendment didn't pass, but it sure got a lot of attention.

This week, as the House of Delegates took up the issue, Del. David Englin (D-45) took a different tactic. On the House floor, he introduced an amendment that would require a woman to give written consent before a doctor could probe her with an ultrasound device.

“I still couldn't vote for the bill, even with this amendment,” Englin acknowledged. “However, this bill is going to become law. And if it's going to become law, we ought to at least protect the women of the commonwealth from this kind of invasive penetration against their consent.”

Del. Kathy Byron (R-22) took the floor to oppose the amendment, describing abortion as the ultimate invasive procedure. She said House Bill 462 was necessary so women seeking an abortion fully understood the process. Englin shot back that all he was trying to do was make sure that a woman consented to a procedure that involves vaginal penetration before it was conducted.

“This is about protecting women in this commonwealth,” said Englin. “How difficult a moral concept is it to say before you perform an invasive procedure on our wives and our daughters that you have to get that woman, who you are going to use a probe inside, to sign a piece of paper saying, 'Yes I consent to having this done to my body.'?”

The amendment failed on a vote of 64 to 34.

A Tale of Two Metrics

Virginia currently uses a formula that evaluates energy-saving projects based on how they impact energy users who don't participate in the conservation program. Critics say that approach makes it harder to justify the return on investment for a project. That's why Councilman Rob Krupicka suggested that the City Council support House Bill 894, which was introduced by Del. R Lee Ware (R-65), which excludes those who don't participate when determining energy efficiency.

“The metric they use severely undercuts the opportunity for implementing new and innovate energy efficiency programs,” said Krupicka. “The problem with that is you may be able to create a bunch of clean-energy jobs, but if a program is based on participation.”