- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

RICHMOND — The House yesterday resurrected a bill that would allow public schools to instruct students that emergency contraceptives can be used to prevent pregnancy after a rape.

The lawmakers voted 56-44 to reconsider the bill a final time, and its sponsor, Delegate James H. Dillard II, Fairfax County Republican, said he hopes to persuade his colleagues to rethink their votes. Mr. Dillard, who is considered to be a centrist, is the Education Committee chairman.

His bill was defeated on a 49-48 vote Monday. It would have added the pill to the state’s Family Life Education curriculum guidelines, which already cover abstinence education and adoption as a way of handling unwanted pregnancies. It will be up for consideration today.

In asking the House to reconsider, Delegate Terrie L. Suit, Virginia Beach Republican, said a rape victim who seeks a prescription for the pill “will get the personal and medical attention she needs” to help her through the crisis.

But Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William County Republican, again argued against the bill, citing several science textbooks and medical studies suggesting the pill is dangerous. “Many doctors refuse to pass this out,” he said.

Mr. Marshall held up a photograph of a young woman he said was conceived in a rape and asked which of his colleagues would be willing to call her and tell her “she was a mistake.”

The House yesterday passed legislation to permanently repeal the tax that Virginia imposes on the estates of millionaires when they die.

Proponents argued that the estate tax, which has been repealed in at least 30 states, encourages businesses to leave Virginia and hurts working farms.

Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican, called the estate tax “absolutely antithetical to the American dream.”

But Delegate Vivian E. Watts, Fairfax County Democrat, countered that the American dream “should not be limited to 1,200 people in the commonwealth.” That’s the number of people who qualify for the estate tax each year.

She said legislation that would have exempted closely held businesses and working farms from the tax was rejected in committee.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, vetoed the legislation last year.

A legislator yesterday withdrew his bill requiring Virginia public schools to close for the Martin Luther King holiday after his colleagues adopted an amendment that he said gutted the measure.

Delegate Dwight C. Jones, Richmond Democrat, objected to an amendment added in committee allowing schools to open on the King holiday if they needed to make up instructional time lost because of bad weather or other reasons.

Chesterfield County school officials outraged some civil rights advocates last year when they used the King holiday as a makeup day. Students who stayed home were required to bring a note from their parents explaining how they observed the holiday.

“In short, racial wounds were opened, in my estimation unnecessarily,” Mr. Jones said. “We have 180 to 190 days of instruction, and there are plenty of days we could use as makeup days other than the Martin Luther King holiday.”

Supporters of the amendment, which was added by the House Education Committee last week, said local school officials should retain control over the academic calendar.

“I would hope no school district would abuse the intent of the bill by being open just for the heck of it,” said Delegate John S. “Jack” Reid, Henrico County Republican.

After the House voted 60-39 to accept the amendment, Mr. Jones struck the bill, saying it no longer accomplished his goal.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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