Richmond – House Republicans capped a month-long slew of divisive social-issue legislation Monday with the advancement of HB1, a bill that confers legal 'personhood' at the moment of conception. Without a subcommittee hearing, the bill emerged from the full Courts of Justice Committee late Friday night – the last possible time for new legislation to be considered during the current session.
"Yet another extreme bill on a social issue emerges, and House Republicans saved the most controversial one for last," remarked House Democratic Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville). "This is another example of misplaced priorities. House Democrats are focused on education, economic opportunity, and transportation while the GOP continues to push a narrow, divisive agenda."
"This bill requires every single code section in Virginia that uses the word 'person' to apply to a fetus," said Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), a member of the Courts committee. "That opens families and doctors to a wide variety of criminal and civil lawsuits for health care decisions not only in cases of unwanted pregnancies, but every pregnancy and even miscarriage."
"There are over 25,000 references to 'person' in the Virginia Code, and numerous untold impacts upon the laws of the Commonwealth as a result of the passage of HB1," said Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), another member of the Courts committee. "This bill will affect everything from the laws of inheritance to redistricting. It is unfortunate that the proponents of HB1 did not listen to or address our concerns."
House Republicans also rejected a floor amendment by Del. Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax) to ensure that contraception would remain legal under HB1. Measures similar to HB1 were recently voted down at the polls in Mississippi, Colorado, and other states. If Gov. McDonnell signs the bill into law, Virginia will become the first state in the nation to confer legal personhood to an embryo.