- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

RICHMOND — Pro-choice legislators and activists said yesterday that legislation is needed to shield birth control from state laws and regulations governing abortions.

Representatives of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia and other organizations joined several lawmakers in urging approval of a bill that would define birth control as contraceptive methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Kristen J. Amundson, Fairfax County Democrat, also states: “Birth control shall not be considered abortion.”

Among the items the FDA lists as birth control is the so-called morning-after pill, which can be taken after sexual intercourse to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. Pro-life advocates who contend life begins at conception say this is a form of abortion.

In recent years, the General Assembly has rejected proposals to require parental consent for unmarried minors to obtain the morning-after pill, also called emergency contraception, and to prohibit state-supported colleges and universities from distributing the drug to students.

No similar bills had been filed as of yesterday — the day before the deadline — but Miss Amundson said her legislation would provide a necessary safeguard.

“There seems to be no shortage of ideas on how to restrict a woman’s reproductive rights,” Miss Amundson said at a press conference.

Previous attempts to pass legislation defining contraception have failed because of disputes over wording.

Delegate Vivian E. Watts, Fairfax County Democrat, said adopting the FDA list is a clear and simple alternative.

Victoria Cobb, executive director of the conservative Family Foundation, said the legislation stems from Planned Parenthood’s promotion of the morning-after pill.

“Their push to get this drug in the hands of young girls is unacceptable,” Mrs. Cobb said.

Mira Singer, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said the bill is intended to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion by protecting all types of contraception.

“There’s nothing more common sense and common ground than birth control,” she said.

The press conference came minutes after the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee voted 9-6 to endorse legislation requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. Similar measures have cleared the House in recent years only to die in a Senate committee.

The outcome of the House committee vote was so certain that the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William County Republican, did not show up to advocate for its passage. There was no debate.

Mr. Marshall has said in the past that the bill would protect women’s health. Opponents have said most clinics would be unable to meet the standards and would be forced to close.

Triggerman rule

Capital murder charges would no longer be limited to the person who directly inflicts the fatal wound under a bill endorsed Wednesday by a Senate committee.

The Courts of Justice Committee sent to the Senate floor legislation drastically modifying Virginia’s “triggerman rule.”

The rules reserves capital punishment for the person who actually does the killing.

The bill would allow the death penalty for any accomplice who shares the triggerman’s intent to kill.

State law already allows the death penalty for murder accomplices in three types of cases. That includes murders for hire, terrorism and continuing criminal enterprises.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, Harrisonburg Republican, would expand it to include accomplices in other types of capital murder cases.

State fruit

A pair of proposed bills would offer recognition to a unique species of Virginia apple born of a hurricane decades ago.

The two bills would designate the Ginger Gold apple as Virginia’s official state fruit.

If approved, the Ginger Gold apple would join a list of 21 official Virginia emblems. Those include the official state bat, the official state folk dance and the official state shell.

The apples came about after Hurricane Camille blasted through Nelson County in the summer of 1969. Clyde Harvey, a third-generation apple grower, collected young apple trees that survived the storm and replanted them on his 1,300-acre farm.

Soon he noticed trees producing a medium-size golden yellow apple with a sweet and slightly tart flavor.

Ginger Harvey is Mr. Harvey’s widow and the apple’s namesake. She said when she bit into the apple she realized, “It was truly a gift from God.”

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