Virginia House vote states life starts at conception

Delegates set up high-stakes battle with Senate

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Delegate Charniele L. Herring, Alexandria Democrat, called such a requirement “the ultimate government intrusion.”

“We are talking about a vaginal probe,” she said. “We are talking about inside a woman’s body.”

But Delegate C. Todd Gilbert, Shenandoah Republican, said those on the other side of the issue never talk about the notion of invasiveness to the unborn.

“In the vast majority of these cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience,” he said, a comment for which he was pilloried by Democrats. He later said he regretted making the remark.

In the state Senate, lawmakers on Tuesday approved a contentious measure that would require drug testing for welfare recipients. The bill would required an initial screening, with a follow-up test if there was reason to believe a person was using illegal drugs. Applicants who refuse a test or test positive could lose benefits for one year. The Senate deadlocked 20-20, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, breaking the tie.

The bill’s patron, Sen. Stephen H. Martin, Chesterfield Republican, said it’s meant to ensure that state tax dollars are sufficiently protected, that they go to children and families and that the bill is not intended to target any single group. The bill contains a clause that would ensure it would not take effect without an accompanying amendment in the state budget. The proposal would cost the state about $2.8 million over the next two years.

“There are some people in this chamber that need to find another website other than ALEC’s,” quipped Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax, referring to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national conservative legislative group that prepares and drafts many bills for statehouses across the country.

“I would hope that we would not want to set ourselves up to be ridiculed by Jon Stewart, or Colbert or Leno or Letterman,” he said, referring to the hosts of several television comedy shows.

“The Daily Show” recently mocked Florida’s version of the law, which a federal judge blocked last fall.

The House Appropriations Committee put off consideration of that chamber’s version of the bill to next year, so the prospects for Mr. Martin’s bill in the House of Delegates is uncertain.

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