Is Virginia Ready for Personhood?

"Dozens" of people at the March for Life...

This year’s upcoming Rally for Life in Richmond (Wednesday, February 15th at the Bell Tower at Capital Square in Richmond @ 11am for those interested) is going to have more gravitas than normal.

The reason?  Personhood has arrived in Virginia.

The bill is HB 1; patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall.  The premise of the bill — while not a true “personhood” bill per se — defines life as beginning at conception and interprets the laws of the Commonwealth as such (and here’s the catch) “subject only to the Constitution of the United States and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court and specific provisions to the contrary in the statutes and constitution of this Commonwealth.”

So what does the bill do?  Nothing… at first…

HB 1 is designed after what is called the “Missouri preamble” — a section of the Missouri state constitution that defines life at conception and has successfully survived legal challenges at the Supreme Court (1989 Webster v Reproductive Health Services).  The thinking is along similar lines of how abortion became the law of the land in the 1960s and early 1970s: write abortion “rights” into state constitutions, find a legal challenge, and then take it to the Supreme Court and let judicial activism carry the rest of the baton.  QED.

Think of it as a light switch.  If all 50 states were to pass “Missouri preamble” language in the United States, and the Supreme Court were ever to overturn Roe v. Wade… the single greatest human rights violation against the Roe v. Wade generation ends overnight.

Now there is reasonable assurance that “Missouri preamble” language will come out of Courts of Justice and be transmitted from the House of Delegates to the Virginia Senate by crossover.  

The question is whether or not it will survive that graveyard of all good pro-life and pro-family legislation: Senate Health and Education.

Should it come out of the Senate on a 21-19 vote (or at 21-20 vote)… it will remain for Governor McDonnell to sign it.

Will McDonnell do so?  If this Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch is any indication, personhood is not extremely high on McDonnell’s radar at the moment — or at least, through the lenses of the RTD’s Jeff Schapiro:

And what Tucker Martin, the governor’s spokesman, said the other day may not qualify as one. McDonnell, Martin said, “supports efforts to protect innocent human life that are consistent with applicable court rulings and state and federal law. He has significant concerns that this proposed legislation has major constitutional issues and may not withstand court scrutiny.”

Beyond McDonnell’s innate caution — perhaps because of his national ambitions, he’s not one to conceal his opposition to abortion, but he doesn’t broadcast it either — Martin’s remarks reflect a rare, little-noticed split among movement-oriented Republicans who make up the party’s backbone. The division, too, is a reminder that in the latest incarnation of one-party Virginia, differences on core beliefs often are not tolerated.

…anything to drive a wedge, eh?

Schapiro’s hair-splitting aside, what is clear through conversations with those who know is that personhood — given the economic climate, jobs, VRS, government reform, etc. — just hasn’t appeared on McDonnell’s radar as a top priority.


Now that Virginia has followed in the footsteps of Colorado, Mississippi, North Dakota, and other states in proposing either referenda or state legislation for personhood, the question is not longer whether “personhood” is a fringe movement.  To the contrary, when a movement that spends a few hundred thousand dollars is opposed by the abortion industry’s multi-million dollar political and marketing campaigns — and still gets 30-40% of the vote?  That’s a big deal.

The question now is whether our elected officials have the will to act on their principles.

Personhood is the last chapter of the civil rights movement, a movement where Virginia’s history as a commonwealth has been less than exemplary.

Let Roe v. Wade rest in the dustbin next to Plessy v. Ferguson.  It’s time to end abortion as the sad and sorry experiment in social engineering it is, claiming over 55 million lives since Roe v. Wade and eviscerating a generation of youth now old enough to express their opinions through the ballot box.

In essence, personhood defends the basic human right to exist.  What could be more American than this?

The time for personhood in Virginia is now.

  • “In essence, personhood defends the basic human right to exist. What could be more American than this?”


  • Susan G

    Is there no one to put the stopper in the sink before all that Virginians hold dear, LIBERTY, goes down the drain?

  • LittleDavid

    At the risk of becoming very unpopular with some:

    I can understand the argument that life begins at conception. Carry that argument even a little further though, even the unfertilized egg and the unfulfilled sperm is alive.

    But when does personhood begin? When does what is developing inside the womb become worthy of being considered a person?

    My argument is that it is not until about the 12th week. Science has shown that while brain waves are in existence earlier then this, no brain waves of the type associated with consciousness, even intermittently, are in existence before them. No evidence of consciousness means no evidence of a soul (personhood).

    My position on abortion is about as moderate as anything in existence. If the two extremes on this position would be willing to compromise, we might settle this issue once and for all.

    Until we can get to a compromise, I am going to side with the pro-choice side. The pro-life side is too full of hypocrites. Life begins at conception and contraceptives are just an earlier stage of abortion. According to the Pope, it is wrong to even use a condom for birth control, which if it is used correctly, prevents conception. Meanwhile a majority of Roman Catholic women will admit they use birth control. Their admission is evidently truthful because they do not have a dozen kids filing into the pew behind them in church on Sunday.

    But what do you expect out of the Catholic Church for leadership on this issue. The Pope is pure. He says follow his example and if you do not want to have sex to create children, just do not have any sex at all. Problem is, most married Roman Catholics do not do a really good job of following his example and it seems that even a few priests who have taken the vow of chastity have had trouble following it as well.

    If I cut off my finger, I have not killed anyone. It might have been stupid, but it was not murder. Likewise, up until about the 12th week, that which is inside the womb of the woman is incapable of consciousness. No thought, no death, no murder.

  • Susan G

    Abotion, no. Contraception, no. When did the United States of America cede its authority to the Vatican?

  • louexis

    It amazes me how every 5 -10 years or so the Christian fanatics come up with new words, a phases that they want to be the law of the land. For example. “Creationism and Intelligent design” After they found that Creationism didn’t work they came up with a new one “Intelligent Design” and now that one has faded the newest one is “PERSONHOOD” It seems to me that under idea that if you are thinking about having a baby and don’t you are doing wrong because the egg and the sperm are readily available. Some Democrat as a joke proposed a law that if you ejaculate without the purpose of having a baby you are a baby killer. We all know that is ridicules but more ridicules than this Personhood thing

  • louexis

    We all know that is ridicules but NO more ridicules than this Personhood thing

  • David, 12th week?

    We heard a heartbeat at 8 weeks.

  • Yes, we do need Personhood here in Virginia and we need to make it clear that in no uncertain terms is the liberty of any individual, including the child in the womb subject to the whims of judges or any other man.

  • Susan G

    Interesting, S. Osbourne, that the child in the womb is subject only to the whims of a man in your mind. The woman should have no decision regarding her body, right? A man must decide what is best for a woman. Honest to God, some of you pro-birthers make me sick to my stomach. Just how much different are you from the Taliban with regards to women? Burkas, maybe, not, but that cult run by that Jessup man did have some redeeming qualities, didn’t it.

  • Susan G.

    I was referring to man as in “mankind” which is a proper English expression.

  • Susan G

    That’s not what you said. You said, “judges or any other man.” You were clearly implying that judges are male and all men have dominion over women’s bodies. Your written words speak your heart. Your heart is from the Dark Ages. Where do you differ from the Moslem extremists in regards to women?

  • Susan, that is absurd. Where does a woman who chooses to have her baby removed from her womb in regards to muslim extremists?

  • Susan G

    Rewrite your question, James, your syntax is flawed.

  • How does a woman who chooses to have her baby surgically removed from her womb differ with muslim extremists?

    Unless the baby is killed in the womb first, they cry when aborted, Susan G. Can’t make this stuff up, been there, got saw with my own eyes, transported the baby to the er where it died fighting to breath, Susan G.

  • oops syntax.. Got to see the bone saw and severing device with my own eyes,..

    I was an emt long ago… should have gone for ptsd eval, the image of a baby with a partially severed arm, instead of neck, still haunts me some 20 years later. I guessed the doctor missed the target and the upper arm felt like the neck?

    Can’t make this stuff up.

  • Brian Kirwin

    The only fair solution is to only allow abortions with the baby’s written consent.

  • LittleDavid


    That’s what you get for speed reading. You missed this sentence in my statement:

    “Science has shown that while brain waves are in existence earlier then this, no brain waves of the type associated with consciousness, even intermittently, are in existence before them.”

    Heartbeats and the brainwaves associated with inducing the heartbeat and other biological functions exist before then, however the fetus does not yet possess any evidence that anything remotely approaching thought or consciousness exists.

    If it can’t think, it is not a person any more then the finger I might cut off my hand is an individual either. The finger is alive, just as the fetus inside the womb of the woman is alive. However up until about the 12th week, the fetus does not possess independent thought and it is not yet a person, it is only a part of the woman’s body.

  • So at 12 weeks it is simply tissue, not anything resembling a human, right Brian?

  • Brian Kirwin

    David, if requiring “any evidence that anything remotely approaching thought or consciousness exists” was what was needed, there’d be no protecting you.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Turbo, David said that, not I.

  • LittleDavid


    You guys need to retreat. The Pro-Life movement is trying to further their agenda due to recent developments. According to some of them, the only purpose of human sexuality is procreation. Even the use of a condom, the use of which would prevent conception, should be illegal.

    You need to weigh things. Are you willing to throw in with the side that says birth control should be illegal. Based upon the facts, is it really that bad that a woman might use a birth control pill so as to allow herself and her husband to engage in sex for recreation?

    You Republicans have a real problem. Santorum will outlaw birth control pills and Ron Paul will legalize heroin. Mitt Romney will outlaw or legalize both depending on which audience he is speaking to.

  • Brian, my bad, meant to say David.

    LD, to each’s own as far as recreational sex is concerned. Birth control via cantraception is a fact of life, no pun intended. Its constitutionally protected, another pun unintended. The real issue is what constitutes birth control to some is not much different from justifiable murder. You argue when it is justifiable all you want but until I hear god tell me it is, I have no reason to differ with people who call abortion what it is.

    And Brian got it right, maybe we should let the baby in on the gig and get their input before suctioning their brains out, dismembering and evacuating their remains then putting them in a dumpster.. what constitutes murder, LD?

  • LittleDavid


    The extremes of the Pro-Life movement think that birth control pills are wrong. The pope thinks that even using a condom, which would prevent conception, is wrong.

    It is my belief that the Personhood amendment is just an attempt to prevent any form of birth control. If the Pershonhood amendment was passed, most forms of birth control (other then abstention or using a condom) might be ruled illegal by the courts.

    Do not be fooled, their intention is very focused. If conception is the definition of legality, most forms of birth control might be ruled illegal except for abstention and condoms. They do not even like condoms.

  • Dear Susan, et al,

    Please ponder this intellectually vice emotionally…

    An extremely important concept that is consistently missed, regardless of the religious implications is that concept which makes us uniquely American. We are the only nation in the world that ever defined the first of our liberties as beginning at conception, re: created equal not born equal. Our Founders were certainly wise enough and learned enough to distinguish the difference. We, Americans, rejected the notion that any person had ultimate say over the life of another innocent. That is, we rejected the idea that no longer could the king exercise his so called right over another person, including that of imposing death. At Roe v. Wade, that court discarded that concept and returned an arbitrary and capricious “right” to an exclusive class, women. Fundamentally violating the basic premises of why we found it necessary to establish this United States of America.
    Now, I only ask by what definition do you use to define yourself as American? Anything less is patently un-American.
    And I don’t give a damn about my syntax because the concept is still sound.

  • PS

    Excellent article, Shaun

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