"Personhood" bill gains momentum as critics prepare to fight

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Bills that critics describe as anti-abortion are gaining momentum in Virginia, and now both sides of the heated debate are gearing up for a fight like never before.

In the past, "personhood" bills died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But now, there's a split of 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans...and the Republican lieutenant governor breaks ties. Even so, pro-lifers rallied Wednesday because they're not taking anything for granted.

Armed with yellow balloons and a newfound sense of purpose...about 100 pro-life demonstrators rallied in support of the "personhood" bill which declares that human rights begin at the moment of conception.

Joining them were Republican delegates and the attorney general.

"Life is at stake in these debates," said Ken Cuccinelli to the crowd.

"We have to push back," added Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William).

Marshall, the bill's sponsor, says it's not meant to outlaw abortion. But critics say there's no doubt it puts Virginia, eventually, should the U.S. Supreme Court ever ban abortions.

Courtney Jones is with Planned Parenthood.

"I mean, I've been getting calls all day. People are outraged about this," Jones said.

With the bill now safely out of the House of Delegates it moves on to the Senate. Even with the tiebreaking vote of the Republican lieutenant governor, there are no  guarantees.

"If it comes to a tie vote, Lieutenant Governor, we need to know how you're going to vote," Marshall said.

But Bill Bolling declined to take a public stance. Instead, a spokesperson said Bolling "is pro-life and has always been pro-life. We are not going to speculate about any tie votes."

"They need to make very clear what they'll do here," Marshall said.

What is clear, is that pro-choice advocates are mobilizing an army of their own to try and slow the momentum before "personhood" becomes law.

Pro-choice advocates have their own rally Thursday, February 23, as the bill makes its way through the Senate ranks. If the bill survives, Gov. Bob McDonnell has not said, yet, if he'll sign it.

"I hope that the governor would reject something like this, but I don't know that that's the case," Jones said.

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