It’s dangerous when our legislature is in session. It seems they can’t help themselves. Rather than concentrate on boring things like funding roads and education they have to find ways to infringe on our civil liberties instead. And lately they seem to have this thing for women who might actually want to choose when they get pregnant.
It started back in early January with the introduction of HB 1677. Delegate John A. Cosgrove (Republican, naturally) of Chesapeake decided it should be a crime if a woman did not report a miscarriage within twelve hours. She would be guilty of a Class 1 Misdemeanor. In other words after suffering the trauma of a miscarriage, any woman who didn’t have her wits sufficiently together to promptly report the experience would be a lawbreaker. For this “crime” she could spend up to 12 months in jail and pay a $2,500 fine.
I, along with many other Virginians, were outraged. Fortunately we had time to act on this bill before it was presented for an up or down vote. I did my part and contacted my state representative and senator. And thankfully this horrible bill was withdrawn.
But the wingnuts are back. Yesterday the Virginia Senate passed the Devolites Davis bill, SB 456. This is an amendment to a bill submitted by Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple. Her bill simply defined contraception as the prevention of the union of sperm or egg or implantation of an egg in the uterine wall. No problem there: this seems like an obvious and straightforward definition.
But our legislature couldn’t leave well enough alone. As the Hampton Roads Daily Press put it:
[Whipple’s] bill would legally define contraception as the prevention of the union of sperm and egg or implantation of an egg in the uterine wall.
Commonly prescribed birth-control pills prevent pregnancy through both means. Abortion opponents who contend life begins at conception insist that denying a fertilized egg the opportunity to attach itself to the womb and develop as a fetus is a form of abortion.
Whipple’s bill and a companion measure by Del. Kristin Amundson, D-Fairfax County, would head off anti-abortion groups’ efforts to classify birth control pills as a form of abortion. That could subject obtaining the pills, intrauterine devices and other forms of birth-control to Virginia’s growing list of abortion restrictions, including parental notification and consent for girls under 18…
Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis’ floor amendment applied a less specific dictionary definition of pregnancy. It was adopted largely along party lines in a 21-17 vote with one abstention.
Rather than take the chance that this amended bill could classify birth control pills as abortion devices Whipple has withdrawn the legislation.
Meanwhile, Delegate Mark Cole introduced HB 1918, which wants to give any fertilized human egg protection. “That life begins at the moment of fertilization and the right to enjoyment of life guaranteed by Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia is vested in each born and preborn human being from the moment of fertilization.” Never mind the inconvenient scientific fact that life does not begin at conception. A fertilized egg is a zygote. It cannot grow nor does it divide at this stage. It is inert. It has not even divided once. Conception occurs when the zygote travels into the uterus and implants itself onto the wall of the uterus. It is when the zygote comes in contact with the blood of the uterine wall that energy allows cell division to begin. It is then that something resembling life has actually started.
I hate learning about these things after the fact. But if you are a concerned citizen of Virginia you cannot wait until these stories show up months later in The Washington Post. Their editors there seem to be asleep on these issues. But you can get on the Democracy for Virginia Legislative Sentry mailing list. And be prepared to act quickly before yet another needlessly intrusive bill is quietly voted into law and one more right you’ve always taken for granted vanishes from the Commonwealth.