Anti-choice legislation will be challenged

Conservatives in Richmond have scored some early gains in their efforts to crush a woman’s right to make reproductive choices. On Jan. 27 the Courts of Justice Committee reported out four bills that would allow government to prohibit or to control the personal decisions that women make in consultation with their physicians and members of their families. As always, the bills were promoted on ideological grounds rather than on health or safety grounds.

Two of the bills will not withstand a court challenge, and for that reason, Gov. Mark Warner will most assuredly veto them. The other bills might make it to the status of law, but they will do nothing to advance the health of safety of women; they may, in fact place a woman’s health in jeopardy. To explain:

HB 1541, proposed by our very own Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, will outlaw a medical procedure known as intact dilation and extraction (IDX), even though it is medically warranted. Marshall knows that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that prohibitions on IDX procedures are unconstitutional, but he hopes to get around this legal impediment by calling the procedure “partial birth infanticide.” Federal judges would have to be dim bulbs indeed to accept Marshall’s new terminology. The governor will veto this bill. If conservatives override the governor’s veto and create a new law, the federal courts will strike it down.

HB 1580, sponsored by Delegate Mark L. Cole, R-Fredericksburg, seeks to invalidate the state law that allows a woman to have a late-term abortion if the attending physician and two consulting physicians determine the procedure is needed to protect the life or health of the woman. Cole obviously has never read the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade, which established that states may regulate late-term abortions “except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” Mr. Cole may think that the Virginia legislature can pass a law that overrides this ruling, but he is wrong. This bill is also headed for certain veto.

HB 1402, sponsored by Delegate Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, would require a physician to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion on a woman under age 18. Presently, only notification is required. Although Black urgently and tearfully pleaded for committee passage of the bill, he did not make a good case for why Virginia should join the ranks of backward states like Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama in having such legislation. Moreover, this bill, if passed over a gubernatorial veto, will have some serious unintended consequences. Among other things, it will expose non-consenting parents to the charge of child abuse, since requiring a young woman to carry a pregnancy to term will expose her to hazards ten times worse than a first-trimester abortion.

HB 1741, sponsored by Delegate Kathy J. Byron, R-Lynchburg, will allow pharmacists to refuse to sell birth control pills or abortion-inducing medications such as mifepristone to a woman, even though she has a doctor’s prescription. This bill does not pass the laugh test. With the possible exception of good ole’ boys in Lynchburg and a few rural counties, pharmacists most of whom are responsible professionals will neither invoke nor abide by such a rule, regardless of their personal views on the matter of reproductive choice.

Gary Jacobsen lives in Woodbridge.

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