Virginia Is Now Perilously Close to Criminalizing Abortion

Virginia must really be desperate to distinguish itself as a place where nobody with a uterus wants to live, because yesterday their House of Delegates passed not one but two insanely restrictive anti-abortion bills, which are both heading pretty directly toward becoming law. You can choose which one you find more outrageous: the personhood bill or the bill that requires ladies to get an unnecessary vaginal probing before they're allowed to have an abortion.

The personhood bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates with a vote of 66-32. Like similar measures in other states, the bill would change the law to expand the meaning of person to include "from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development," thereby effectively outlawing abortion and creating other problems for contraception and women's health in general. Measures along the same lines have been shot down previously in Mississippi and Colorado, though this differs slightly in that it doesn't require a constitutional amendment.

The bill will now head to the Senate, where it has failed in years past, when Democrats controlled the body. But this time power is evenly split between the two parties, and the tie-breaking vote lies with the Republican Lieutenant Governor. It stands a pretty good chance of surviving the Senate, and if it did so it'd be the first such measure to be passed by both chambers in any state. To give you an idea of which way the Senate leans, they passed another bill yesterday that would allow wrongful death suits to be filed against those who kill a fetus. So, things don't exactly look rosy on this front.

In an effort to totally go for broke in the competition to be the most embarrassing state in the union, the House also passed, by a vote of 63-36, a bill that requires a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound before she can have an abortion. Yeah, not just an over-the-abdomen procedure like you see on TV—the kind where they actually stick a wand up your hoohaa and then try to convince you that, in fact, you really don't want that abortion after all. It would be an unprecedented and crazy overreach by the government. As Democratic Delegate Charnielle Herring said on the House floor, "We're talking about inside a woman's body. This is the first time, if we pass this bill, that we will be dictating a medical procedure to a physician." Yes, it sounds like something out of a terrifying sci-fi movie, but we have to do it—because it makes our Supreme Leader the Baby Jesus happy.

Now that the House has had its way with it, this too will head to the Senate. A companion bill, proposed by Sen. Jill Vogel, has already passed the chamber. You might remember it because of the genius amendement that Democrat Janet Howell tried (but ultimately failed) to attach which would have required men to get rectal exams before they could get prescriptions for Viagra. So the ultrasound bill will almost certainly become law.

Democrats in the House this go-round were fervently opposed to both bills, but were powerless to stop the Republicans, who hold a supermajority. Nevertheless, the debate was heated, and the most outrageously offensive comment by far was spat forth by Republican Delegate Todd Gilbert, who said this little gem regarding abortion:

We hear the same song over there. The very tragic human notes that are often touched upon involve extreme examples. But in the vast majority of these cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience.

Ahh, yes, because it is so darn convenient to get an abortion these days. All those slutty kids are basically just doing it for fun after school, right? Ugh. Fortunately, there was considerable pushback against his idiotic remark and he's since backtracked saying, "I recognize that few women undergo the procedure lightly. It leaves scars, both mental and physical, that can last forever. I regret that my comments earlier today ... were insensitive to that reality." Here's an idea, Del. Gilbert, why don't we give your brain a scan every time you feel like saying something, just so you can see what you're about to say and really think hard about whether you want to go through with it.

While these latest developments certainly do not bode well for those of us who would prefer not to travel back to a future where abortion is illegal, we can at least be comforted by the fact that there are still a few road blocks in the way of this legislation. The first is Governor Bob McDonnell, a socially conservative Roman Catholic Republican, who must sign the bills. When it comes to the ultrasound bill, he's already pledged to sign it—so he's more of an E-Z Pass lane than a road block. But he hasn't yet taken a position on the personhood bill. So maybe he'll magically decide it is politically unwise for him to make his state more regressive than Mississippi? Eh, our uteruses can dream. And if that fails, there's always the good old-fashioned court system, where both of these bills will surely be tied up for many years to come. But you'd better brace yourselves anyway, lady citizens of the so-called "mother state," because if your legislators have their way, you're all going to be mothers, whether you like it or not.

Va. House passes "personhood" abortion bill [CBS News]
Anti-abortion "personhood" bill advances in Virginia [Reuters]

Image via Mombo76/Shutterstock.