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Senate shelves personhood bill

The General Assembly has decided to postpone until next year consideration of a bill that would grant personhood rights to a human embryo from the moment of conception.

The Senate last week sent the measure, House Bill 1, back to a committee after Democrats and some Republicans said it could have unforeseen consequences.

Democratic officials and abortion rights groups saw the move as a victory.

“I applaud Republicans in the Senate for seeing the light on why this overreaching bill was wrong for Virginia,” said House Democratic Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville. “I hope that my Republican colleagues in the House – who passed this bill just last week – will come to agree in future sessions.”

HB 1, proposed by Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, had passed the House on a 66-32 vote on Feb. 14. The measure stated that “unborn children at every stage of 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.”

On Thursday morning, the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted 8-7 to approve the legislation. All of the Republicans on the panel voted for it; all of the Democrats voted against.

Hours later, the full Senate took up the bill. That’s when Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, proposed sending HB 1 back to the committee, putting it on hold for at least a year.

Unexpectedly, Senate Republican Majority leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg agreed, saying that the bill’s complexities required further study. The motion to return the legislation to the committee passed by a vote of 24-14.

Eighteen Democratic senators and six Republicans voted for the motion to shelve HB 1; 14 Republicans voted against it. Two Democrats did not vote.

The bill was modeled after a 1986 Missouri law that has survived court challenges, said Rita Dunaway, an attorney for the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides legal services in the defense of religious and civil liberties.

Dunaway advocated for the bill because she said it would accomplish the long-term objective of recognizing the humanity of the unborn.

HB 1 would not supersede federal laws or the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, Dunaway said. “A bill like this would provide a legal and philosophical foundation for specific statutes restricting abortion if the legislature ever chose to pursue such measures.”

Still, many Virginians saw HB 1 as an attempt to restrict abortion rights. As many as 1,500 people gathered on the Capitol grounds last week in silent protest of HB 1 and other proposals they considered attacks on reproductive rights.

Such activism is what prompted legislators to reconsider HB 1, said Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond. “Through petition, silent protest, calls and letters, voices across the commonwealth calling for an end to this attack on women’s rights were finally heard,” she said.

Dunaway called Norment’s action to shelve HB 1 “nothing more than a politically motivated trick.” She said there was no need to further investigate the implications of the bill. There was “not a single question raised in committee that was not definitively answered,” Dunaway said.

As a result of Thursday’s vote, HB 1 will be on the agenda for the Senate Education and Health Committee for the 2013 legislative session.

“I can only hope that members of the House and Senate will not forget the pushback that occurred against this legislation next year,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “We’ll be ready for it next year.”

How they voted
Here is how the Senate voted Thursday on a motion to send HB 1 back to the Senate Education and Health Committee.
Floor: 02/23/12 Senate: Motion to recommit to committee agreed to (24-Y 14-N)
YEAS – Barker, Blevins, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puller, Ruff, Saslaw, Stosch, Wagner, Watkins – 24.
NAYS – Black, Carrico, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Smith, Stanley, Stuart, Vogel – 14.
NOT VOTING – Colgan, Puckett – 2.


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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