UPDATE: The Virginia Senate voted 24-14 Thursday to effectively kill the so-called personhood bill by sending it back to committee for at least another year.
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, urged fellow Republicans to join Democrats in killing the bill, insisting it wasn't ready for a vote.
Earlier Thursday, a Senate committee approved the bill with an amendment on a party-line vote. The House of Delegates already passed the bill. Gov. Bob McDonnell declined to weigh in on the measure.
"There were many more complexities and nuances and legal arguments and legal perspectives on that bill that I had ever imagined," Norment said.
A bill that would define a fetus as a person and set the stage for Virginia to abolish legal abortions passed a key Senate committee Thursday morning and now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
The so-called personhood bill already passed the House of Delegates. Gov. Bob McDonnell has not indicated if he would sign the bill, citing legal concerns. However, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s top legal adviser, backs the measure.
The Senate Health and Education Committee passed the bill with an amendment on an 8-7 party-line vote during a busy morning meeting in which they also approved a bill mandating women receive an abdominal ultrasound before getting an abortion.
The personhood bill defines life as beginning at conception and would give a fetus the same legal and civil rights as an every day person. The bill won’t supersede any federal laws or U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have legalized some abortions. However, it sets the state on a path to ban all abortions should the high court overturn Roe v. Wade.
It would also open the door for wrongful death suits in cases where a fetus is killed as the result of a reckless act, such as a drunk driver striking a vehicle with a pregnant woman.
Proponents say the bill is mostly benign and symbolic because abortion is legal. Opponents caution that the bill is far-reaching and could outlaw some forms of contraceptives, including birth control pills.
"If a fetus is a person, can a pregnant woman use HOV lanes?" said Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax. "The Virginia state legislature is not a doctor. Republicans need to get their heads out of the exam room and the personal lives of Virginians."