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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‘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.

Cyclist killed in crash was 52-year-old man

Henrico Police have named the victim killed June 21 when the bicycle he was riding collided with a truck on Mechanicsville Turnpike near I-64 in Eastern Henrico.

Fifty-two year-old Ray J. Freeman, of Richmond, died at a local hospital after being struck. The truck that hit him was traveling south on Mechanicsville Turnpike. > Read more.

Henrico man sentenced to 10 years in prison for dealing heroin

A Henrico man was sentenced June 20 to 10 years in prison for distribution of heroin.

Arlando Harris, 35, pleaded guilty on Dec. 29, 2016. According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Henrico Police executed a search warrant at Harris' mother's residence in Henrico on March 16, 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen HS student earns playwriting residency


A play written by a Glen Allen High School junior was selected, along with seven others, to be performed professionally this summer through a nationally acclaimed Virginia high school playwriting program.

47B, a play written by 16-year-old Glen Allen High school student Dominique Dowling, was chosen by New Voices for the Theater, a playwriting competition sponsored by the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, from a pool of more than 150 plays by high school students in the state. > Read more.

Missing Eastern Henrico man found dead

Henrico Police have found the body of a missing Eastern Henrico man.

The body of 25-year-old Taj Rashad Bullock, who was last seen June 10 in Eastern Henrico, was found June 20 in a wooded area in that part of the county. > Read more.

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Henricus Historical Park and the South East Virginia Primitive Skills Group will present “Trades of Antiquity at Henricus” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See demonstrations of life skills and trades from the pre-contact and Colonial eras in Virginia such as flint knapping, fire starting, wood turning, broom weaving, soap making, trapping, hide prep and blacksmithing. Examples of artifacts made will be available for purchase. Admission is $6 to $8 or free for Henricus Patrons. For details, visit http://www.henricus.org. Full text

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