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Virginia 'Personhood' Bill Stalls in the State Senate

HB 1, the Virginia "personhood" bill — legislation aimed at outlawing abortion by defining an embryo as a person with individual rights — was stalled in the Senate yesterday when the state senate voted to send the bill back to committee to be taken up again in 2013. Sens. Thomas Norment, R-James City County, and Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, proposed that bill be sent back to the Senate Education and Health Committee and be passed by for the year. Their proposal passed 24 to 14 with four Republicans voting yes.

The bill would have established the legal personhood existed at "every stage of development," a definition that would have endangered many aspects of in vitro fertilization, the treatment of ectopic pregnancy and a woman's access to certain forms of contraception. At a hearing of the Senate health panel, several members of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, testified on the devastating effect a bill such as this would have on the care of infertility patients.

“The physicians and other professionals who are dedicating their lives to taking care of Virginia's infertility patients applaud the decision by the Senate today to table HB1 and end its prospects of passage this year," says Sean Tipton, ASRM director of public affairs. "This so-called personhood bill would have endangered the ability of Virginians diagnosed with infertility to get the medical help they need to build their families. The burden of infertility is heavy enough without extremist groups trying to make it worse."

Sen. Frank Wagner from Virginia Beach was one of the Republicans who voted to send the bill back to committee. He told The Virginian-Pilot that voted that way partlybecause of questions raised by officials at Eastern Virginia Medical School's Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, who said they were worried about the bill's impact on IVF.

The personhood bill's chances of success were also in question when Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, did not signal whether he would sign the bill or not.

Virginia is not the end of personhood legislation. Read this article for a round-up of personhood and other legislation that can affect women's reproductive rights throughout the country.

"The voices of people concerned with reproductive health — from family building to contraception — were heard today," Tipton says. "The Virginia Senate, like the voters in Mississippi and Colorado before them, refused to take an extreme stand that would endanger reproductive health."We pledge to make every effort to defeat legislation anywhere that threatens patients' access to the treatments they need."


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