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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.”


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Virginia Blood Services will hold a blood drive from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Dorey Recreation Center, 2999 Darbytown Rd. All walk-ins are welcome and donors are encouraged to… Full text

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