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.