Unborn children; construing the word 'person' under Virginia law to include. (HB1)

Introduced By

Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) with support from co-patrons Del. Ben Cline (R-Amherst), Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-Manassas), and Sen. Tom Garrett (R-Lynchburg)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Rights of unborn children.  Provides that unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth, subject only to the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States, precedents of the United States Supreme Court, and provisions to the contrary in the statutes of the Commonwealth. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


11/21/2011Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/12 12100423D
11/21/2011Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/10/2012Reported from Courts of Justice (14-Y 4-N) (see vote tally)
02/12/2012Read first time
02/13/2012Read second time
02/13/2012Floor substitute printed 12105413D-H1 (McClellan)
02/13/2012Speaker ruled floor Substitute by Delegate McClellan not germane 12105413D-H1
02/13/2012Motion to pass by Amendment by Delegate Watts agreed to (64-Y 34-N)
02/13/2012VOTE: PASS BY (64-Y 34-N) (see vote tally)
02/13/2012Pending question ordered
02/13/2012Engrossed by House
02/14/2012Read third time
02/14/2012Pending question ordered
02/14/2012Passed House (66-Y 32-N)
02/14/2012VOTE: PASSAGE (66-Y 32-N) (see vote tally)
02/15/2012Constitutional reading dispensed
02/15/2012Referred to Committee on Education and Health
02/23/2012Reported from Education and Health with amendment (8-Y 7-N) (see vote tally)
02/23/2012Motion to recommit to committee agreed to (24-Y 14-N) (see vote tally)
02/23/2012Recommitted to Education and Health
02/23/2012Pursuant to rule 20(g)
02/23/2012Continued to 2013 in Education and Health


This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 1 clip in all, totaling 14 minutes.


Dave Gresham writes:

Next is legislating our thoughts? OUR BODIES ARE OUR OWN! Shame on you religious Nazis.

stephen writes:

Just another attempt by the Government to steal our rights and treat us like slaves to them.

stephen writes:

It's time for the public to protest in front of these peoples houses. Then will see how badly they want their self serving bills.

Neal Frankel writes:

Very concerned that legislation of this nature will lead to hormonal birth control becoming illegal. Another attack on women's rights and health care decisions.

annie writes:

Who will provide and pay for the healthcare for the eggs? Is using a condom premeditated murder? Women of Virginia, you better wake up!

Anthony Adams writes:

Deal with the problems of Virginia not social issues....

Angela writes:

Birth control like IUDs, Oral contraceptive pills and Emergency Contraception that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg would be banned. Would Virginia women with IUDs be required to have them removed? Would a woman with an ectopic pregnancy
(tubal pregnancy) be treated or left to die?

robert legge writes:

Bob Marshall, great name for a wilderness area. Not for a legislator.

Angela writes:

I'm for the portion of "small government" that says "get the government out of the bedroom"

Matthew Nichols writes:

This makes perfect sense! You become biologically human when you get 23 pairs of unique chromosomes. Why not grant legal protection to what science has already deemed life?

Look - I'm all for getting the government out of personal business, especially an individual's body. What a woman does with her body is her business as long as she's not harming another human.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

You become biologically human when you get 23 pairs of unique chromosomes.

You have just invented a definition of "human" that omits millions of people, including identical twins. Also, anybody with Aneuploidy—genetic disorders that cause them to have different numbers of chromsomes—such as people with Down's syndrome. Aneuploidy affects 1 out of 160 newborns, or about just north of 800,000 newborns each year, worldwide.

Why not grant legal protection to what science has already deemed life?

Science classifies yeast, plankton, and paramecium as "life." I'm not aware of any movements to provide legal protection to any of those. You've gone from using terms that are far too narrow to using terms that are far too broad.

This is a delightfully clear demonstration of the perils of attempting to represent a very complex problem as a simple one.

Karen Kantor writes:

Obstetric decisions are best made by a woman and her doctor, and the legislature should stay out of their business.

Take the money you would spend on enforcing this ridiculous intrusion and spend it on real children living in Virginia. Restoring the budgets of schools, libraries and medical services would be a great start.

Katherine writes:

I have a hard time believing that there aren't more pressing issues for politicians to address than granting personhood to a CELL who cannot support its own life. I am very concerned about this bill and the one mandating an ultrasound prior to an abortion. I've never had to make this decision, but I can't even imagine how painful it is and these politicians are certainly not helping.

Jamie Selden writes:

Some parties I wont say any names (Republicans) worry more about the fetus than the children already here on Earth.

Michael writes:

Without this bill, what legal recourse will a pregnant woman have if a drunk driver causes a miscarriage? By what logic could society imprison a drunk driver for murder or manslaughter if the "fetus" is not legally a human person?

Claire writes:

Michael, if we're primarily concerned with giving pregnant women "legal recourse" for a miscarriage resulting from a motor vehicle accident, then legislators should propose a law that addresses that specific issue, sort of like the law Virginia already has that classifies the premeditated homicide of a fetus as a Class 2 felony (Va. Code 18.2-32.2. That law doesn't define blastocysts and embryos as "persons," and it doesn't need to in order to be effective. In other words, it's perfectly possible to imprison drunk drivers for murder or manslaughter without a law like the one Marshall has proposed.

Michael writes:

The "embryo" or "blastocyst" or "unborn baby" or whatever else is used as a name is either a human being, or it is not.

I find it interesting that so many people are able to simultaneously hold contradictory opinions. I hope, Claire, that you at least recognize that you are suffering under an intellectual strain of contradiction.

Claire writes:

Michael, you suggested that "without this bill" there would be no "legal recourse [for] a pregnant woman" who suffers a miscarriage after a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver. I pointed out that you were in fact wrong; that without this bill, there is a way to give women in that situation legal recourse. It appears you aren't actually very interested in the scenario you described above (giving those women legal recourse), but are more interested in according legal status to a blastocyst commensurate with the legal status that the post-born enjoy. Which makes your previous post rhetorically deceitful, but that's not a huge surprise to me.

A human blastocyst is a human blastocyst, a human embryo is a human embryo, and so on through the stages of human development. I don't put a blastocyst on the same moral plane as a fetus, and I certainly don't put it on the same moral plane as human being. If I have a choice between saving the life of a blastocyst and saving the life of a post-born human being, I'm going to go with the human being. How about you?

Your assertion that a blastocyst "is either a human being, or it is not" is merely your assertion, and an example of the intellectual strain of a false dilemma, AND of simplistic thinking, to boot.

Michael writes:

Sorry Claire, the logical contradiction cannot and will not stand. Eventually, the law you suggest that the legislature could pass will be struck down. How long do you think it will take for a drunk driver to assert in his defense that whatever it was that he killed it was not a human being? So no, it was not "rhetorically deceitful". I am genuinely concerned about Justice, and you are putting it at risk.

I won't even address the absurd "choice" you presented, but would like you to enlighten me about my "false dilemma" and "simplistic thinking". Are you truly suggesting that a blastocyst can simultaneously be a human and not a human?

Claire writes:

I'm not surprised you sidestepped my question by calling it "absurd"; it's very inconvenient for you, because it strikes at the heart of the complexities you pretend don't exist. Real women face this choice every day, if they find that continuing a pregnancy to term threatens their lives. Very, very few people blame a mother and wife who chooses the medical intervention that will end her pregnancy and save her life. Even Karen and Rick Santorum accept that the non-fetal human's rights trump those of the fetal human's rights. But not you, I suppose.

You're also remarkably incurious. Just a bit of Googling will show that the law I "suggest" (regarding the miscarriage induced by the drunk driver) exists in multiple states, along with laws against fetal homicide, including the one in Virginia. They haven't been struck down; they've been in existence for years. So, no, you're not actually concerned about those situations; if you were, you'd be heaving a huge sigh of relief that these laws are out there working effectively.

Yes, I can assert that a blastocyst is human, but not a human being. There is a difference, and the question that you sidestepped reveals the logical flaw in asserting that they are the same. If you are not willing to answer the question--if you are not willing to say that, yes, you truly, truly, truly assign absolutely equal moral value to a zygote as to a born human being, that they have absolutely the same rights, that in a contest for life between a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and/or fetus and born human being that you wouldn't favor the already-born, then you are simply a huge liar.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

The Code of Virginia has 118 unique definitions of the word "person," each carefully constructed to apply to its assigned section of the code. Some of those definitions don't even include humans, but apply only to businesses and similar organizations. This bill would cause thousands of unrelated laws to apply to fetuses, giving the SCC the ability to regulate fetuses, allowing fetuses to be appointed conservation police officers, giving fetuses the power to delegate to insurance agencies the ability to bind coverage on insurance policies. I could go on and on.

Del. Marshall will need to tailor this bill much, much more narrowly. Right now it's so broad as to render bizarre vast swaths of the Code of Virginia.

Orville writes:

I'm waiting to see whether the supporters of this bill are willing to adopt the chidren resulting from its application to real life situations. Some are bound to be born to people who are unable to care for them because of lack of resources or lack of parenting skills. If the bill's supporters are unwilling to become their parents, I suppose the taxpayers (those whom the supporters purport to protect from excessive government spending and interference in their personal affairs) will be asked to accept even more government spending to support them by funding the dreaded "welfare", increasing funding for Medicaid, funding an expanded foster care system, and increasing funding for other, yet unseen. Yes, to these people more government spending and intrusion into our lives is bad,...except when it's good.

Common Sense writes:

It's patently clear that the GOP is terminally challenged by reality. Republicans want to turn back the clock 50 or 100 years, to some mythical point in time that they imagine was rife with their much-vaunted "freedom." That "freedom," of course, equals freedom for white males, and everybody else -- women most especially -- goes back to possessing few if any rights at all.

Since 2009/10, this same GOP has launched a concerted assault in statehouses across the land on women, voters, workers, immigrants, gays. You see, they are completely convinced that everything that happened from 1933 on -- i.e., the EXPANSION of FREEDOM to actually include working people, black people, female people, gay people -- was horribly wrong. They are completely sure that returning to their mythical vision of The (Gun-toting, Heterosexual) Family will “return” America to greatness.

But who says America is broken?! The GOP says it is . . . but women who rightfully have decision power over their own bodies would disagree. The GOP claims that affirmative action is an ineffective affront, but the rise of the ever-growing black middle class would belie that claim. Republicans insist that any illegal immigrant be immediately shipped back home — and yet this would tear apart countless families — although I guess “The Family” would still reign supreme.

In truth, the GOP cannot accept reality. And who can blame them? Because it’s in those states that run the reddest — ah, yes, our deepest South among them — that their nasty policies have borne the richest fruit: Higher divorce rates than anywhere else. Lower church attendance than anywhere else. Worst teen pregnancy | obesity | health insurance | smoking | you-name-it rates than anywhere else. Lowest educational attainment than anywhere else. Oh, and lest we forget, many of the poorest economies as well.

Or, put another way: It’s those places which are most the liberal — the GOP’s dreaded “elitists”! -- which have the lowest divorce rates, the highest educational achievement, the best health outcomes, the most church attendance, the richest economies.

THIS is reality. And the Republicans just can’t believe it!!!

Kimberly writes:

If this is passed, this state will no longer be a safe place for women.

Lisa Whetzel writes:

Please use your common sense and deny this bill from getting any further in the VA Senate.

Regardless of where you stand on abortion, this is an unnecessary bill. And its the wrong way to get there if you are against it.

Instead, i ask you...
Where is the bill that increases support for those that have babies out of wedlock or when they are too young to care for themselves? Where is the bill that increases funding for adoptions and foster care and run-a-way homes for teens? where is the bill increasing funding for victims trying to get away from abusive spouses? where is the bill to increase funding to provide more sexual education? Where is the bill to increase funding for preschool subsidies?

Those are the bills we will need to see if you pass the personhood bill.

Please think about the ramifications of passing this bill forward.

The Richmonder writes:

You can watch a press conference held by the group RESOLVE to discuss the impact HB1 would have on In-Vitro Fertilization treatments. This is a bad law, poorly written. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail in the senate.


The Richmonder writes:

RESOLVE press conference, February 16, 2012.

Kaye writes:

I never thought I would see the day where legislation like this would make it out and on the house floor. Republicans, remember Women are still "allowed to vote"!Control our Bodies, Control our life. Senators this craziness must stop.

Arlingtonian writes:

Next thing we lose is our right to vote. Watch.

Erin White writes:

This bill is overreach of government, pure and simple, with the promise of unintended consequences far greater than we can even imagine. Conservative legislators, practice what you preach and keep the government out of personal health care decisions.

Berryvillian writes:

Women are intelligent human beings capable of making informed decisions for themselves and their lives. I think it's time that politicians accept the fact that women can make reproductive decisions without their interference.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

The Senate killed this bill on a lopsided (24-14) vote just now. Technically, they've put it off until next year, though it remains to be seen whether that is a method of killing the bill without having to actually kill it, or whether it'll be seriously reconsidered in 2013.