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.”
The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run Oct. 24 through Nov. 8. The play is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and adapted by Steven Dietz, and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.
The story follows Holmes, whose career as the world’s greatest detective seems to have reached its end until he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer, Irene Adler, Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
If you’re in the mood for a little music this weekend, you won’t be disappointed! Pete Peterkin, a finalist on America’s Got Talent, will present a musical tribute to the legendary Ray Charles at CACGA tomorrow. Fans of gospel music can head to Sandston Baptist Church for an Eastern Henrico FISH benefit concert. Richmond native and American Idol Season 5 finalist Elliott Yamin will perform at the Weinstein JCC. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarVCU Medical Center will present the seminar “New Treatments for the Weakened Heart” at 5:30 p.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave. Learn about the signs and symptoms… Full text