RICHMOND - On Wednesday morning, pro-life advocates from across Virginia are rallying at the Bell Tower in Capital Square, in support of two anti-abortion bills advancing in the General Assembly. One would state that life begins at conception, and another would require women seeking abortions to first undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure.
The focus of today's rally is Delegate Bob Marshall's House Bill 1, which could effectively outlaw abortions by declaring that a person's rights begin from the moment sperm fertilizes an egg. The House passed the measure on a 66-32 vote. It now heads to the Senate.
Marshall and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are among those scheduled to speak at the rally about HB 1, which proclaims that "unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being."
Opponents argue the bill undermines women's decisions, and restricts reproductive rights.
"The General Assembly is dangerously close to making Virginia the first state in the country to grant personhood rights to fertilized eggs," said Tarina Keene of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.
One Democratic delegate contended the personhood bill would also restrict access to birth control. "I do not want to see a day when the only option for women and men to obtain the contraception of their choice is to leave our state and go to DC or Maryland," Del. Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax said.
Marshall defended his bill. "I would suggest the claim that there are (sic) a vast field of unintended consequences because of the word &lsquoerson' is sorely misplaced," he said.
Another measure approved Tuesday by Delegates would force women to get transvaginal ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.
The conservative Family Foundation hailed the legislation as an "update" to Virginia's informed consent laws "with the most advanced medical technology available."
But critics say required ultrasounds are an unprecedented intrusion. "We're talking about inside a woman's body," said Del. Charnielle Herring, D-Alexandria. "This is the first time, if we pass this bill, that we will be dictating a medical procedure to a physician."
The Senate has already passed a companion bill to the ultrasound measure. There is no similar Senate legislation for the personhood bill.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has said he will sign the ultrasound bill, but a spokesperson said he has not taken a position on the personhood bill.
Copyright 2012 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond