Bills undercut reproductive rights, Democrats say

Democratic leaders and women’s right advocates sounded the alarm Thursday about three bills they said would limit a woman’s reproductive freedom in Virginia.

They said House Bill 1, which would grant individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception, would be a step toward making all abortions illegal.

On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed the measure on a 66-32 vote.

The bill provides that “unborn children” from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development “enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth, subject only to the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States, precedents of the United States Supreme Court, and provisions to the contrary in the statutes of the Commonwealth.”

No state has passed such a law. Since 2008, Republicans in Colorado and Mississippi have pushed for similar “personhood” bills, but they failed.

HB 1, sponsored by Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, now heads to the Senate. If the personhood bill becomes law, it would essentially criminalize all abortions in Virginia, opponents say. They worry that the law also would affect women’s access to regular contraceptive measures, such as intrauterine devices and the morning-after pill.

At a press conference Thursday in the General Assembly Building, Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Annandale, said she has asked Marshall “What is the definition of conception?” and “Does this mean we aren’t going to protect legal contraception?”

Marshall has refused to answer, Watts said. She said he repeatedly responded with “That will be up to the courts to decide.”

According to Watts, the language of HB 1 is clear: that from the moment egg and sperm meet, anything that keeps the fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus would be destroying a person.

Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, said he believes the personhood bill is “absolutely an attack on contraceptives.”

“Republicans want to reserve the right to decide what should be considered a contraceptive in Virginia,” said McEachin, who chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“It makes me wonder if the Republicans’ real intent is to prevent access to contraceptives, to continue to blur lines, and eventually for them to make all family decisions for Virginians.”

Speakers at the press conference also criticized House Bill 462, which would require every woman undergoing an abortion to first submit to an ultrasound.

The bill says the woman must be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image of her fetus before the abortion.

Under the legislation, if the heartbeat cannot be detected, as is often the case early in a pregnancy, the woman would be subjected to a trans-vaginal probe.

“House Bill 462 basically puts government inside a woman’s body, and government has absolutely no business there,” said Delegate Charnielle Herring, D-Alexandria.

“These two bills (HB 1 and HB 462) represent an attack on women the likes of which we have never seen in our modern era, telling women what they must do with their bodies and forcing an invasive medical procedure onto a person who is exercising their constitutional right, is the epitome of big government.”

The House passed HB 462 on a 63-36 vote on Tuesday.

By a similar margin, delegates also have passed HB 62, which would prohibit state-funded abortions for low-income women even if the child they are carrying would have totally incapacitating deformities or impairments.

Katherine Grennier, a spokesperson for the local chapter of the ACLU, said HB 62 discriminates against impoverished Virginians.

“It would restrict access for very poor women, resulting in a system where only wealthy women can access the full range of health care services in the face of a devastating pre-natal diagnosis,” Grennier said.

She said this is “absolutely no way to treat a woman who is facing a medical crisis. No woman plans to have an abortion, but if she needs one, every woman deserves the chance to make the best decision for her circumstances.”
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Richmond Montessori School earns VAIS reaccreditation


Richmond Montessori School, an independent Montessori school for children ages 2 to 14, recently earned reaccreditation from the Virginia Association of Independent Schools. The VAIS accreditation program is one of only a few recognized at the national level through the National Association of Independent School's Commission on Accreditation and is also recognized and approved by the Virginia Board of Education through the Virginia Council for Private Education. > Read more.

Business in brief


Neil Burton, the founder of Strangeways Brewing in Henrico, will serve on the 2017-18 Leadership Council of The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild (VCBG). Burton will share the chairmanship of the Marketing & Tourism Committee with Kevin Erskine of Coelacanth Brewing. Other local brewers in leadership positions include Eric McKay of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (VCBG chair), Hunter Smith of Champion Brewing Company (co-chair of the Government Affairs Committee) and Kate Lee of Hardywood (co-chair of the Quality Committee). > Read more.

James River Juvenile Detention Center to graduate its largest class

James River Juvenile Detention Center will celebrate its largest class of high school graduates June 27, as 13 residents receive their high school diploma or GED certificate.

The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the detention center, 3650 Beaumont Road in Powhatan County. The graduates will mark their academic milestone by walking across a stage in a cap and gown before an audience of family members. A reception will follow. > Read more.

Henrico School Board selects redistricting Option E


JUNE 23, 10:30 A.M. – The Henrico County School Board Thursday concluded its latest redistricting process by selecting a plan for middle school redistricting that will impact a number of students in the western and northern parts of the county, as well as a few in Eastern Henrico.

The process sought to reduce overcrowding at Hungary Creek Middle School, create room at Wilder Middle School for a gifted academy and address the poverty level disparity among some middle schools. It will impact about 775 students, according to school system officials. > Read more.

‘Senior Cool Care’ program to help older adults in Metro Richmond


For the 27th year, Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging is helping older adults combat summer heat through a program now called "Senior Cool Care" (formerly the Fan Care program) that provides fan and air conditioning units for eligible senior citizens.

The program is available to low-income older adults age 60 and older who reside in the City of Richmond and the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan. > Read more.

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Alex Bugnon will perform at 8 p.m. at The Tin Pan, 8982 Quioccasin Rd. Bugnon has built a loyal fan base through constant touring on the club and jazz festival circuits. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. Doors open at 6 p.m. For details, call 447-8189 or visit http://www.tinpanrva.com. Full text

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