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Virginia House passes 'personhood' and ultrasound mandates

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Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 10:30 pm | Updated: 2:36 pm, Sat Dec 8, 2012.

After another day of fierce debate, the state's Republican-led House of Delegates on Tuesday pushed through two abortion-related measures that opponents view as an attack on women's rights.

On a 63-36 vote, the House passed a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound prior to abortion. That followed a 66-32 vote approving legislation that defines life as beginning at conception.

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With the state Senate having approved a similar ultrasound measure -- virtually ensuring that it will become law -- Democrats pleaded with Republicans to reconsider support for the legislation.

They claimed that House Bill 462, sponsored by Del. Kathy J. Byron, R-Campbell, mandates a potentially invasive procedure simply to discourage abortion.

Republicans contend that the bill merely codifies an already common procedure that offers valuable information to women ahead of a clearlyinvasive procedure.

"People on the other side of the issue never talk about the issue of the invasiveness to the unborn," said Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. "In the vast majority of these cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience."

Later in the day, Gilbert circulated a statement saying he regretted his "insensitive" remarks. Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, who has called himself a "pro-life Democrat," argued vehemently against the bill.

"It involves government in something that only should involve God and family and doctor," he said.

Morrissey was twice admonished by Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford, for claiming Republicans had been "disingenuous" in their arguments for the bill.

When Morrissey continued on the same path, calling Byron's opposition to an HPV vaccine requirement "hypocritical," Howell issued a sharp rebuke telling him "not to attack testimony from another member of this House."

Added Howell: "You've done this time and time again, and we're not going to put up with it."

Six Republicans voted against the measure.

After the bill passed the House, Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said in a statement: "We are very pleased that the House of Delegates has joined the Senate in seeing the need to update our existing informed-consent practice with the most advanced medical technology available, including an ultrasound."

The second abortion-related measure, House Bill 1, sponsored by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, would impart the rights of "personhood" to a human embryo at the moment of conception.

Democrats railed against the legislation for the second day, claiming it could be used to make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy or even allow women to use contraception that prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg.

"There are going to be a lot of unintended consequences," said Del. Jennifer L. McClellan, D-Richmond.

Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, dismissed the Democrats' complaints, arguing that it was innocuous legislation designed to create a civil cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn child killed by the negligent or criminal act of a third party.

"All these accusations from the other side of the aisle, all these horror stories, that's not going to happen," he said.

whester@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6976

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