The Virginia House of Delegates advanced legislation Monday stating that human life begins at conception and rejected an amendment aimed at clarifying that birth control would remain legal.
Delegates gave preliminary approval to Del. Bob Marshall's "personhood" bill on a voice vote, setting up likely passage Tuesday.
Marshall, R-Prince William and one of the legislature's most outspoken abortion opponents, said the bill would not directly affect abortion but would establish a framework for parents to sue anyone who causes the death of their unborn child.
However, opponents have argued that the real aim of the bill is to lay the groundwork for outlawing abortion in Virginia if the U.S. Supreme Court ever reverses its Roe v. Wade decision. Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, asked Marshall directly if that was his intent.
"You'd have to be completely obtuse to not understand that is something I have worked for for 20 years," Marshall said.
Del. Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax, proposed an amendment declaring that nothing in the bill would be construed to affect legal contraception. She said many forms of birth control work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, so those types of contraception could run afoul of Marshall's bill.
The House voted 64-34 to not consider Watts' amendment.
Anti-abortion activists are pursuing "personhood" measures in at least a dozen states. Voter referendums on such measures failed in Colorado in 2008 and 2010 and in Mississippi last November.
On another abortion-related matter, the House gave preliminary approval to a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound image taken to determine the gestational age of the fetus. The patient would be given an opportunity, but would not be required, to look at the image.
The Senate has passed similar legislation, which opponents say intrudes on decisions best left to women and their doctors.