Silent majority

21 February 2012: DC Exile Day 28

It looks like the Virginia General Assembly’s attempt to return women to a day before the 19th Amendment is getting some great attention, notice and outcry.

Yesterday, a group of activists surrounded the Virginia Capitol in Richmond to protest the state’s persistent attacks on women’s health. (Estimates put the crowd at over 1000 persons.)

While the protestors stood silently outside, Virginia’s cowardly, misogynist legislators held off on voting on some terrible bills.

Rather than delve into the details, I’ll provide some great links from yesterday, including some spot-on editorials decrying the latest bigoted bills in Virginia.

Activists in Virginia are now poised for a statewide day of action this Thursday, 23 February. To learn more, visit NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s page.

[Updated: 12:10 p.m. MST]

News outlets continue coverage today.

House of Misrepresentatives

17 February 2012: DC Exile Day 24

Not that this news comes as any surprise, but this past week has been especially terrible for women in the US. In case you missed it, below is a brief rundown of what happened in DC and Virginia this week. (I write about Virginia for two main reasons. First, I worked there recently in reproductive rights and am plugged in to what is going on in that state. Second, I believe some of the bills under consideration in Virginia may serve as dangerous models for the rest of the country should they pass.)

In addition to the Virginia House of Delegates approving a measure to grant “personhood” rights to zygotes, legislators in the Commonwealth moved forward with other measures to destroy the rights of women. (An article from Chelyen Davis at and David Sherfinski at The Washington Times provide valuable updates on how “personhood” may affect in vitro fertilization.)

  • Chelyen Davis also reports on a bill from Delegate Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, that would block the ability of low-income women to access assistance for necessary abortion care.
  • The House of Delegates voted to approve a bill that would force women to undergo vaginal probe ultrasounds against their will and against the advice of their doctors. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia describe the invasiveness of the bill.

And of course, there was the unbelievable absence of female witnesses during a hearing on birth control in the U.S. House of Representatives. The chair of the committee, Rep, Darrell Issa, R-Calif, even claimed a female law student was not “qualified” to testify to the committee.

Wait. So women, who take birth control, are not qualified to testify about birth control?

This week points out the dreadful truth that Republican legislators, especially those in the House of Representatives (you know, that body that is supposed to represent us?), believe that only wealthy, heterosexual, Christian White men are experts. Our legislators believe that women are not capable of living their own lives and making their own decisions. Our legislators are cowards.

Retrograde fever

Hello again everyone.

Yesterday, the Virginia House of Delegates approved HB 1, the “personhood” bill granting constitutional and property rights from the moment of conception. News outlets have done an accurate job of reporting the dangers of such legislation passing in Virginia (my favorite reports were from The Rachel Maddow Show, the Huffington Post and Mother Jones).

The reports and the debate in the General Assembly frequently focus on what the bill will do. Among the extreme results likely if the bill becomes law: the complete outlawing of safe, legal abortion in Virginia, the criminalizing of many forms of birth control and the development of a model that other states can use to strip away women’s rights and send our country to some Biblical notion of gender roles. (Fitting that I am listening to Metallica’s “Holier Than Thou” while writing this post.)

Particularly striking to me in reading the coverage is the mere existence of the conversation.

The year is 2012. When he heard that year, the ten-year-old version of Joseph Patrick Richards envisioned flying cars, hoverboards, omnipresent virtual reality simulators (Facebook does not count) and meals in tablet form. While technology has come a long way, our ideals seem more retrograde than any time in the last 50 years. (As the AP reports, Virginia is a clear example of moving backward.) When we should be living on Neptune and paying for sewing kits with chips planted in our thumbnails we are instead focusing on doing everything we can to make sure women have only the role of broodmares in the future of the US.

Why? Why does this rhetoric exist? How can it be part of the national conversation? How can we be nearly 40 years on from Roe v. Wade and somehow find ourselves moving to the pre-suffrage days?

I am deeply troubled that our national dialogue continues to center on rejecting advancements in human rights. I believe it is entirely acceptable to hold bigoted views in your own life. It is your right to be a senseless asshole. However, as soon as you enter the public stage, especially in the role of leader (as a member of the press, public official, politician, etc.) you no longer have the right to act on your view that some people in this country should not be people. I believe every proposed bill should have to pass a human rights test. Will your strict voting requirement bill limit the human rights of certain individuals? If yes, then you do not have permission to even waste time or the public conscience by officially submitting your bill. Next. Does your bill in anyway single out women or abortion providers for restrictions you do not place on men or other doctors? Sorry, but we do not accept restrictions of human rights in this country. We’re the United States of America. We believe human rights are inviolable.

At least thirty-year-old Joey can dream.


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.