RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A stunning turn of events at the state Capitol. House Bill 1, the so-called "Personhood" bill, is gone for the year...just hours after it appeared to be gaining momentum. The surprise vote took place Thursday afternoon, not long after an intense public hearing resulted in some people being tossed from the General Assembly Building.
Quietly, and with barely any fanfare or advance notice, the full Virginia Senate said goodbye to "Personhood". The 24-14 vote, which included some Republicans, effectively kills until 2013 a divisive bill authored by Republican Del. Bob Marshall.
After HB1 was shelved, a disappointed -but not surprised- Marshall said by phone, "This could not have happened without the tacit approval of Gov. McDonnell and Lt. Gov Bolling." Marshall's reasoning: the motion to put off the bill was seconded by House Majority Leader Tommy Norment, a Republican. McDonnell and Bolling were not immediately reachable for a response.
Earlier in the day, Marshall's bill survived a smaller Senate committee...sending pro-choice advocates into a near frenzy.
"Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame on you!" they shouted moments after the committee vote.
Ejected protesters then moved from inside to the outside, lining 9th Street and chanting an unmistakable message.
"What do we want? CHOICE! When do we want it? NOW!" they yelled.
The "Personhood" bill would've defined life as beginning at conception, a pre-cursor, critics say, to outlawing abortion and creating a slew of other legal calamities. Del. Jennifer McClellan is a Richmond Democrat, who spoke to us while the bill was still alive.
"It has wide-ranging implications and they don't wanna believe it," she said Thursday morning.
But later, some Republicans in the full Senate agreed with Democrats that the bill needs more study. Del. Marshall signaled earlier in the day that his bill would not go away indefinitely.
"We are moral creatures. We are social creatures. You cannot escape the destiny of morality," Marshall said Thursday morning.
The Family Foundation, which supported the bill, urged the House to pass a different bill which adds the unborn to the state's wrongful death statute.
"The reasonableness of providing families that choose life with the ability to sue for damages when they lose an unborn child's life due to the reckless actions of another is evidenced by the overwhelming Senate support for this bill," said Family Foundation of Virginia President Virginia Cobb.
Another vote Thursday that left pro-choice advocates angry: the Senate panel approved Wednesday's revised ultrasound bill. It now requires women seeking an abortion to have an external -not internal- ultrasound before ending a pregnancy.
That ultrasound bill is expected before the full Senate Friday.