Virginia Gleefully Hops Aboard Runaway Personhood Train

Today in terrible ideas: Pro life legislators in Virginia think it would be a dandy idea to declare that life begins at the moment of conception and that fertilized eggs are people and hop aboard the Personhood Express. This is the worst train since the one Mary Steenburgen traveled through time on in Back to the Future III.

Undaunted by the Personhood Movement's embarrassing and historic overreach in Mississippi, Republican delegate to the Virginia legislature Bob Marshall introduced a bill to the assembly that would redefine life as beginning at the moment of conception. The law reads, in part,

...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.

All the rights and privileges available to other people? No responsibilities? How to I apply to be a fetus in Virginia?

As with other personhood laws (like the one that failed in Mississippi earlier this month and the one being introduced in Wisconsin), Virginia's proposed measure would make all abortion illegal and threaten the legality of birth control and some methods of IVF. Unlike the other measures, which were introduced as constitutional amendments, this one is a piece of legislature, which means fuck what the citizens of Virginia want; it's time for some pro-life political grandstanding!

This crap law looks like it actually has a good chance of passing; Virginia's legislative branch is heavily Republican, and as a rule, Republicans love passionately protecting proto human cells. But there's no need to panic.

Even if it does pass and suddenly fetuses are people in Virginia, it's unlikely that the law will ever take effect. Someone will file a lawsuit challenging it, a judge will issue a temporary injunction barring enforcement of the law until the hearing, a hearing will happen, the verdict will be appealed no matter what the outcome, and this will continue until some court refuses to hear it or the law is repealed by a new, less dumb set of legislators (the passage of a parental notification law in New Hampshire about 10 years ago followed a similar story arc). When all is said and done, the state of Virginia will spend a fuckton of money on something that really amounts to a source for soundbytes for politicians who want to show their pro-life constituents that they just love prebabies so much that they're willing to talk about it in front of some TV cameras.

In the meantime, a task force has been started to look into the prospect of changing the state's famed "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan to "Virginia is for Zygotes."

Lawmaker files 'personhood' bill in the House [WaPo]