RICHMOND, Virginia, February 14, 2012 ( – The Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill today, by a vote of 66 to 32, which states that unborn children “at every stage of development,” that is, from the moment of conception, are considered persons – although the sponsor of the bill says it will not directly affect abortion access in the state.

Bill HB 1
, introduced by outspokenly pro-life Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), provides that, “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.”

Opponents of the bill claim that such legislation would affect access to artificial contraception and abortion, with House Democrats issuing a media release saying the bill would open “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.”

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Women are “rightfully concerned about their continued access to all forms of contraception if this bill is passed,” said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax in a report. “Let’s not move the commonwealth back to the days when contraception was not easily accessible.”

“To claim using birth control will get you in trouble with this statue is simply false,’’ Marshall responded, according to the Washington Post. “It does not have the affect of criminalizing birth control. This does not directly affect abortion.’’

Marshall pointed to similar legislation in Missouri, where the concerns listed by critics haven’t materialized.

“It’s been alleged by the pro-abortion or pro-choice or whatever folks, that this has every bad consequence in the world,” Marshall said. “The opponents of this type of legislation… have had 20 years to find one bogeyman in the closet.”

“HB 1 recognizes that human life begins at conception and also declares that unborn children and their parents have protectable legal interests,” Marshall said in a press release.

“The immediate effect of HB 1 will be to create a civil cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn child to enable parents to sue a third party for damages if he or she wrongfully causes the death of their unborn baby either through assault or negligence. This cause of action already exists in the majority of states and is a natural complement to Virginia’s fetal homicide law. But Virginia does not allow civil legal recourse if the baby is not ‘born alive.’  My bill will correct this, while acknowledging the humanity of the preborn child.”

“The legal effect here is [if] a pregnant woman is driving in an intersection and someone runs into her, she can sue for loss of a child,” Marshall said. “Under the current code, a mother cannot do that. [The bill] has no direct legal effect on abortion or birth control.”

Similar personhood legislation introduced by Marshall in 2007 failed to pass in the House. In 2011 the bill passed in the House but was quashed by the pro-abortion Democrats in the Senate.

The bill now heads to the Virginia Senate where it reportedly faces a more difficult battle.

The full text of Bill HB 1 is available here.

Contact info:

Delegate Robert G. Marshall
General Assembly Building
P.O. Box 406
Richmond, Virginia 23218
Phone: (804) 698-1013
Fax: (804) 698-6713
Email: [email protected]