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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Glen Allen native serves aboard Navy’s most advanced submarine


A 2007 Deep Run High School graduate and Glen Allen, Virginia native is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a crew working aboard one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines, USS Tennessee, Gold Crew.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Uhl, a machinist’s mate, serves aboard the Kings Bay-based boat, one of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines.

As a machinist's mate, Uhl is responsible for operating and maintaining the auxiliary engineering equipment aboard the submarine. > Read more.

Fresh Air Fund seeks host families


The Fresh Air Fund, a program through which nearly 4,000 children from low-income New York City communities spend a summer with host families in communities along the East Coast and in southern Canada, is seeking hosts for the coming summer.

According to the organization, there is no such thing as a “typical” host family. First-time Fresh Air children are boys and girls, from seven to 12 years old. Children who are reinvited by host families may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18 and can enjoy extended trips. > Read more.

Godwin student wins in statewide STEM essay contest

Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Council on Women announced recently that Morgan Logsdon of Mills E. Godwin High School was one of five statewide winners of the sixth-annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for young women enrolled in their junior or senior year of high school.

The Council on Women established the contest to award scholarships to high school junior and senior young women who plan to pursue STEM careers at institutions of higher education. > Read more.

Varina meeting May 2 to address opioid crisis in Henrico


Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson will hold a Community Conversations meeting Tuesday, May 2 to discuss the opioid epidemic in Henrico County.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Road. Nelson will be joined by County Manager John A. Vithoulkas and members of the Henrico Heroin Task Force for a discussion of heroin and opioid abuse and ways to prevent it. > Read more.

Baker ES to remain closed until fall


Baker Elementary School students will complete the 2016-17 school year at other locations and will return to a restored building in fall 2017, school leaders have decided.

The decision was made in order to provide ample time for repairs to be completed at the fire-damaged school and to avoid additional interruptions to instructional time. > Read more.

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Regency Square Mall will host the arrival of the Easter Bunny with breakfast in the spring garden from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Ages 10 and under. Seating is limited. To register, call 740-1518. The Easter Bunny will remain until Apr. 15. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday (with half-hour breaks at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.) and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday (with a break from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.). Visits are free; photo packages vary in price. For details, visit http://www.shopregencysqmall.com. Full text

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