13 February 2012: DC Exile Day 20
This morning, the Virginia House of Delegates are hearing debate on HB 1. HB 1 is what is known as a “personhood” bill, meaning it would grant full constitutional and “personhood” rights to zygotes from the moment of conception. The bill’s patron is Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Prince William, who is nothing if not a one-track-minded opponent of women’s health.
It should be no secret I am adamantly opposed to such a bill. Not only does it have the potential to change language so that Virginia could effectively outlaw abortion and ban many forms of birth control, it is another bill in a long line of attacks that do nothing but single out women in an attempt to eradicate their rights.
I’m sure the views from the floor of Virginia’s House of Delegates will be outrageous, so I’ll do my best to put up the highlights here. (You can also listen to the debate live.)
11:50 a.m. (MST) – The House return from a pizza day recess. (Unless I absolutely misheard what they said when going to recess, but I don’t think I did.)
11:52 a.m. (MST) – Debate on HB 1 begins. Floor amendment and floor substitute to be heard. Del. Marshall addressing what he calls “standard objections of the bill” (based on statue in Missouri in 1986). Del. Marshall says that voters in Virginia who said they disagreed with the bill were not “informed.” Del. Marshall also argues that bill would not affect birth control or miscarriage, but does not mention abortion. (Correction – He did say the bill will have no effect on abortion).
12:01 p.m. (MST) Delegate Jennifer McClellan’s substitute bill is ruled not germane. Amendment introduced by Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax – “Nothing in this section should affect lawful contraception.” Del. Marshall responds to the amendment by saying the amendment is not related to the bill and would put lawmakers on record as “being against the law of gravity.” Del. Watts responds by pointing out “the moment of conception” language in HB 1. Calls out Human Life Alliance piece of literature that describes birth control as abortion. Del. Watts tried to have the dialogue with Del. Marshall in committee, but Del. Marshall refused to offer a definition of conception. Del. Watts – By voting for this bill, “you are voting against birth control.”
12:07 p.m. (MST) The House votes to pass by Del. Watts’ amendment. Delegate Joseph Morrissey, D-Henrico, questions Del. Marshall. When Del. Morrissey asks Del. Marshall if the intent of the bill is to outlaw abortion, Del. Marshall responds in the affirmative. Del. Morrissey mentions the property rights of the zygotes and asks if the cell can sue the mother for drinking, drugs and over indulgence in sugar. Del. Marshall responds by quoting Dr. Seuss. Del. Morrissey – This legislation gives cells property rights. What specific property rights? Del. Marshall – Zygotes is Latin and we should use English in this body.
12:11 p.m. (MST) Del. Morrissey continues to question Del. Marshall. Del. Morrissey – What do you mean when you say “the personhood bill would give the state the backbone to criminalize abortion”? Del. Marshall – This bill does not criminalize abortion in and of itself. Del. Morrissey – The real intent is to create a civil action for a fetus. Why not just amend the wrongful death statute? Why this approach? Del. Marshall – Purpose of this bill is for courts to understand that “child” in utero is a human being. Del. Morrissey – Why not amend the wrongful death code? Del. Marshall – Purpose is to recognize unborn children as human beings. Del. Morrissey – Didn’t Supreme Court rule on substantive Missouri law and not preamble on which HB 1 is based? Del. Marshall – They reversed the Court of Appeals decision and did rule on it. Del. Morrissey – Is it Marshall’s position that the Supreme Court ruled on language on which HB 1 is based? Del. Marshall – Roundabout yes. Del. Morrissey – Was this bill drafted by legislative services? Del. Marshall – No. It was drafted by Rita Dunaway of The Rutherford Institute, a conservative thinktank.
12:19 p.m. Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, takes the bill head on saying the bill has implications on “the right to privacy and on birth control.” Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, questions Del. Marshall. “In your opinion, does this bill affect access to current forms of contraception?” Del. Marshall – It does not. Del. Filler-Corn – Does this bill affect in vitro fertilization? Del. Marshall – No. Del. Filler-Corn – Then why is it not appropriate to have an exception for all forms of birth control? Del. Marshall – No. Del. Filler-Corn – If the bill is not intended to strip away the option of contraception, then what is the fear of including an amendment to protect birth control? Del. Marshall – This bill does not deal with nuclear weapons, so there is no point for an amendment saying such.
The bill is passed to the third reading calendar. That means they will hear the bill once more in the House and if it passes the full floor it will move to the Senate for consideration.
12:26 p.m. (MST) – Let’s sum up. Women’s health proponents wished to amend the bill to explicitly protect birth control. Delegate Bob Marshall and House members opposed to women’s health rejected the amendment and did not want to be on record as voting against birth control. I learned (perhaps some persons knew it already) that the Virginia “personhood” bill was drafted by a lawyer at a religious, conservative thinktank.
So, if you live in Virginia, religious White men got one more way to control your reproductive life.