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Va. Antiabortion Measures Fizzle Before Senate Panel

Virginia Delagate Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) waves a prop fetus doll in his sideshow to the Senate’s Education and Health Committee. He referred to the committee as the “killing ground for all pro-family legislation” when the EHC dumped the measure. (Bob Brown — Richmond Times-dispatch)

Several anti-choice measures were thankfully defeated in the Virginia legislature yesterday. There were a couple that were simply too far beyond the pale, including the “fetal pain” measure, which argued “compassion for the fetus.” The intent, its proponents freely admit, is to get it to pass somewhere, and chip away at Roe v Wade that way. It’s a brilliant approach that will win votes without any medical evidence to support the claim of fetal pain. I have no doubt a law like this will find a home in one of the Red states eventually.

Here are the measures killed by the Senate’s Education and Health Committee yesterday:

House Bill 1524, sponsored by Del. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun): Would require physicians to inform women past 20 weeks of pregnancy that the fetus could feel pain during an abortion and to administer anesthesia to such a fetus before aborting it, unless the woman directs that no anesthesia be used or the doctor feels it could put the mother at risk. Failing to do so would be a misdemeanor offense.

HB 1810, sponsored by Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William): Would prohibit the sale of fetal tissue after abortions and would make engaging in such acts a misdemeanor.

HB 2784, sponsored by Del. John S. “Jack” Reid (R-Henrico): Would require that abortion clinics in which 25 or more first-trimester abortions are performed in a year be licensed and observe regulations now in place for ambulatory surgery centers. Clinics could apply to the Board of Health annually for exemptions from the regulations, and the commissioner of health could deny, suspend or revoke the license of abortion clinics if violations of regulations were found.


Senators on the panel say they are blocking bills they consider irresponsible and unconstitutional.

“This committee has essentially been, for the last decade, the safety check on legislation that would virtually destroy a woman’s access to an abortion in Virginia,” said Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax).

The key defeat for abortion opponents came in the morning, when the committee rejected a bill that would have required doctors to inform women seeking abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy that the fetus could feel pain during the procedure and to offer anesthesia to counter it. Black, who authored House Bill 1524, argued that compassion for the fetus should prompt the bill’s passage.

Critics said that fetal pain has not been medically proven and that the anesthesiology demanded under the bill could increase risks to women. Black said afterward that his intention has been to educate about the realities of abortion, and he said he is convinced that passage of a fetal pain bill would spell the end of legal abortion.

Granted, if medical proof does arise that fetal pain is real, it puts pro-choice activists in a tough position, in the same way that late-term abortion does. Each side of the legal tug of war on choice is going to have difficulties on this front as science gets closer to confirming one side’s position or the other. There are no easy answers, and in the end, no winners on this topic because I don’t see a healthy compromise.

Thanks to House Blend reader Holly for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding