Nothing is as powerful as showing up:
RICHMOND, Va. — Hundreds of women stood mute, arm-in-arm, forming a human cordon through which legislators walked before Monday’s House and Senate sessions to protest a wave of anti-abortion legislation coursing through Virginia’s General Assembly.
Capitol and state police officers, there to ensure order, estimated the crowd to be at least 1,000, perhaps 1,500 at the noon peak of the protest. The silent demonstration was over bills that would define embryos as humans and criminalize their destruction, require “transvaginal” ultrasounds of women seeking abortions, and cut state aid to poor women seeking abortions.
“So there’s opposition to this measure. So what’s new about that?” said Marshall, the sponsor of the “personhood” legislation that could outlaw all abortions and, critics claim, some forms of contraception in Virginia if the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion is reversed. The bill passed the House on a vote of 66-32 and is pending before the Senate Education and Health Committee.
Both chambers have passed legislation that requires women to have a transvaginal ultrasound before undergoing abortions.
Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, a socially conservative Roman Catholic, has said he will sign the ultrasound bill, but has taken no position on Marshall’s personhood bill, a spokesman said last week.
I’ve read and thought a lot on the personhood bills, and in my opinion no one really has any idea what will happen if one of these is made law. I think the impact would be (potentially) absolutely huge:
1. The life of each human being begins at conception.
2. Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being.
3. The natural parents of unborn children have protectable interests in the life, health, and well-being of their unborn child.
4. The laws of this Commonwealth shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this Commonwealth, 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.
5. As used in this section, the term “unborn children” or “unborn child” shall include any unborn child or children or the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.
6. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as creating a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or by failing to follow any particular program of prenatal care.
7. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.
I’ve tried to take it down to the practical level, and if I think it through redefining “person” is breathtaking in scope. In my state, Ohio, I think the newly defined “person” would have the same set of rights that a child has, because surely the newly defined person isn’t an adult, so I start there. I suppose a state legislature could attempt to narrow the rights of the “person” (remember: at conception):
and specific provisions to the contrary in the statutes and constitution of this Commonwealth.
but I think they’d then end up with two classes of juvenile “persons”, post-conception and post-birth, and that interpretation would then be challenged and also, frankly, unworkable as a practical matter.
If I just mentally tick off the state law that applies to children and apply that “at conception” I’m really down the rabbit hole and into a new world.
My overall feeling regarding the personhood amendments is that “serious conservatives” know that these laws would be absolutely revolutionary, potentially applicable to everything from child support to abuse, neglect and dependency actions, so there’s almost a wink and nod approach to them: allow the radical pro-lifers to go forward, and hope sanity prevails. I am no longer confident sanity will prevail.
I cannot imagine a juvenile court (which is where it would end up in my state, I think, I don’t know where else it would go) determining the “best interests” of a “person” at conception, as against the rights of the parents and the state’s interest.
It is difficult enough to get this right now, and we work with children that are separate and apart from another (adult) person, and the truth is we often don’t get it right. It’s difficult. We fail all the time.