In an unexpected move, the Virginia Senate killed the state’s personhood bill, a key victory for women’s groups seeking to battle the current proposals on reproductive rights. By a 24-14 vote, the Senate agreed to a motion by Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) to push consideration of the bill to next year’s legislative session. A coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the tied Senate voted for the motion; six Republican and 18 Democratic senators voted to push consideration of the bill back. Two Democratic senators abstained.
The bill was expected to pass the Senate with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) providing a tie-breaking vote. Norment said he believed the bill needed more study. The bill passed a Senate committee, with Republican support, earlier in the day, and it passed the Republican-dominated House of Delegates last week. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) had indicated that he would sign the bill.
The proposal, sponsored by Delegate Robert Marshall (R), would have granted “personhood” status to unborn children, including embryos. Similar proposals have been defeated in other states, including in a statewide referendum last year in Mississippi. The bill’s defeat comes days after McDonnell and legislative Republicans agreed to amend the bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before receiving an abortion to exclude trans-vaginal ultrasounds on women who do not consent to the practice. The ultrasound bill was passed by the House just after the personhood bill.
The defeat of the personhood bill comes amid a flurry of state-level proposals on reproductive rights, including a proposal in New Hampshire to end the state’s mandate that religious organizations provide birth control insurance coverage for employees and the national debate over the Obama administration’s requirement that religious organizations provide birth control insurance coverage.
Democratic groups are cheering the personhood bill’s defeat. This is a huge win for women in the Republican war on a women’s right to choose and women’s health,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee spokeswoman Carolyn Fiddler. Andy Jenks from NBC News 12 in Virginia tweeted that Sen. Dick Saslaw (D) is in support of the move. “[Personhood] is on life support, and there ain’t a doctor around for 200 miles,” Jenks tweeted, quoting Saslaw.