- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2000

RICHMOND The Virginia House gave final approval yesterday to a bill that would require women to wait 24 hours between seeking and having an abortion. The measure was sent to the Senate committee where it has died for the last few years. But this year may be different.

Last year's elections changed the composition and power-sharing agreement in the Senate, leaving Republicans with a majority and a new chairman for the Education and Health Committee. So there's a very good chance for the bill to pass out of that committee and to the full Senate, where backers think it will win. The governor also supports the measure.

Yesterday's 64-35 vote was expected but still important. Informed consent, as the bill has been called, has passed the full House every year by about the same margin, showing that it has kept the same support as last year in the Senate.

The bill matches part of a Pennsylvania statute that was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision. It requires that doctors, at least 24 hours before performing an abortion, make sure the woman has been given detailed information about the age of her child and the procedure.

"Don't you want a woman who's going to make a decision like that to know what she's going to go through and the long-terms effects of that?" asked Jeannemarie Devolites, Fairfax Republican.

Opponents of the bill, however, argued the law wasn't about information, it was about delaying and possibly preventing someone from exercising their right.

"What I think we are really doing is the right to choose, I think we're trying to remove that," said Delegate Anne G. "Panny" Rhodes, Richmond Republican.

"I genuinely do not believe men have any business meddling in this, much less the state," said Delegate William P. Robinson Jr., Norfolk Democrat.

Current law requires doctors to tell women about the procedure. The major new requirement in the bill is the 24-hour wait between the time a woman gets the information and has the abortion, opponents said.

All Northern Virginia Democrats voted against the bill, joined by James H. Dillard II, Fairfax Republican, the only Republican from the region to vote against it. Overall, most Republicans voted for the bill, joined by about a dozen Democrats from more conservative areas of Southside and Southwest Virginia.

The big test is pending in the Senate, where the bill will be in the Education and Health Committee sometime after "crossover" next Wednesday.

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