- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

Leaders on both sides of the partial-birth abortion debate expect Virginia to enact legislation banning the procedure during the 2003 legislative session, despite an anticipated veto from Gov. Mark R. Warner.

"I think that it's very likely," said Ben Greenburg, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, a leading pro-choice organization.

"I suspect that there will be a partial-birth abortion ban bill [passed] in 2003, and the veto will be overridden in both chambers," said Victoria Cobb, director of legislative affairs for the Family Foundation of Virginia, a pro-life advocacy group.

In the partial-birth abortion procedure, a fetus is delivered partly into the birth canal and its skull is collapsed to enable its passage.

The House and Senate this spring approved the Medically Induced Infanticide bill banning the procedure, but Mr. Warner, a Democrat, vetoed it.

The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican, carried a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $100,000 for any doctor in violation of the ban. The measure had an exception to protect a pregnant woman's life or to prevent "substantial or irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

But the governor said the bill lacked certain safety provisions for mothers and therefore was unconstitutional. Should similar legislation be introduced next year, he said, he will veto it.

"I am not opposed to a ban as long as the ban is constitutional, and clearly the law as passed last [session] was not constitutional," Mr. Warner said Wednesday.

The House overrode Mr. Warner's veto, but the Senate sustained it by two votes. In order to override a veto, legislation must pass by a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Asked yesterday if he planned to introduce identical legislation next session, Mr. Marshall responded, "Is the pope a Catholic?"

He said Mr. Warner "wants a fig-leaf prohibition on the procedure, and if he keeps this up he will find himself overridden."

Observers point to the retirement of two pro-choice senators since the last legislative session as a reason to expect an override. Sen. Warren Barry, Fairfax Republican, retired in June to accept a position in Mr. Warner's administration.

His successor, Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, ran on a strong pro-life message and handily defeated his pro-choice opponent, Cathy Belter.

"Pro-life people were very motivated by that veto," Mr. Cuccinelli said. "It was viewed as the most extreme pro-abortion position taking hold and it drew a strong reaction for people to get out the vote."

Sen. Madison Marye , Shawsville Democrat, retired in July, citing health reasons and voter disenfranchisement.

His 39th District seat was redrawn from the southern portions of the state, where he lives, to Northern Virginia. Delegate James "Jay" O'Brien, Clifton Republican, has announced his candidacy for the seat in an area he currently represents and is viewed by many pro-life advocates as the second vote needed to override Mr. Warner's veto.

While in the House, Mr. O'Brien voted to override the veto.

"We might actually have more [votes] than we need," said Mr. Marshall.

"Madison Marye voted against it and he is gone. Warren Barry did not vote and he is gone, and [state Sen.] Steve Martin [Chesterfield Republican] was away. Does anyone really think that the senators in Virginia are going to vote to keep that legal? Not unless they want challengers."

Pro-life advocates also are hoping to tighten Virginia's parental-notification laws.

Under the current law, a minor must notify at least one parent of her intention to have an abortion but is not required to obtain permission.

"Over 20 states have parental-consent laws, and that is a change we are really looking for," said Mrs. Cobb. "We want to make sure that the parents are actively involved in the decision-making process."

But Mr. Warner said Wednesday that he is opposed to any changes in the current laws.

"In terms of additional restrictions on a woman's right to choose, that is not where I am," he said.

Mr. Greenburg said his organization would lobby against tighter rules. "We will not support any legislation that restricts a woman's right to choose, period," he said.

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