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Va. Senate kills 'personhood' bill for this year

Thursday - 2/23/2012, 5:29pm  ET

By BOB LEWIS
AP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. - A bill that would define life as starting at conception is done this year in the Virginia legislature.

With no debate, the Senate voted 24-14 Thursday to send the so-called "personhood" bill back to committee and carry it over to 2013.

Senate Democratic Leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax County made the motion to shelve the bill and Republican Leader Tommy Norment of James City County supported it, saying more study is needed.

The vote sidetracking the most sweeping of several anti-abortion bills came hours after the Senate Education and Health Committee endorsed it on an 8-7 party-line vote, with Democrats voting against it. The bill passed after an amendment clarifying that no provision in it would restrict the use of federally approved contraception.

At least three times, the committee chairman, Sen. Steve Martin, threatened to have police remove opponents of the bill after they spoke out during debate.

The committee earlier approved a bill requiring pre-abortion external sonograms in which ultrasonic transducers are moved about across the lower abdomen. It was amended to eliminate mandatory ultrasound procedures requiring an invasive probe.

The "personhood" bill would give embryos the full legal protection of personhood and criminalize their destruction, outlawing almost all abortions and, critics say, some forms of contraception. It would take effect only if the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortions is overturned.

After the vote, opponents of the bill jammed a foyer outside the meeting room chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as the measure's sponsor, Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, emerged.

Across the street from the legislative office tower, hundreds of people stood in protest, aiming their chants at lawmakers.

The ultrasound legislation was sent to the full Senate on an identical 8-7 party-line vote.

An amendment mirrors one adopted Wednesday in the House to an identical Senate bill after Gov. Bob McDonnell _ besieged by women's groups, ridiculed by television comedians and persuaded by arguments from GOP moderates and medical professionals _ dropped his support for "transvaginal" ultrasounds.

Another bill still before legislators would eliminate government funding for abortions under Medicaid for indigent women whose fetuses with severe deformities.

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Online(equals)

HB1 (Marshall): http://bit.ly/yojJ0C

HB462 (Byron): http://bit.ly/yAnDoM


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)