- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

RICHMOND — Lawmakers yesterday gave preliminary approval of a bill that would require doctors to administer anesthesia to a fetus during an abortion, as pro-choice activists rallied outside the state Capitol in opposition to what they argue are restrictive measures.

Delegate Richard H. Black, who sponsored the bill, said it is a humane measure. “What we’re talking about is children and we’re talking about their pain,” the Loudoun County Republican said.

The House will take a final vote on the bill today.

Mr. Black, one of the legislature’s most outspoken abortion opponents, last year sponsored a similar bill that would require anesthesia for a fetus at the 12-week stage. The House passed his bill, but the Senate Education and Health Committee rejected it.

This year, Mr. Black amended the bill to require anesthesia for a fetus at the 20-week stage.

During debate on the House floor, Mr. Black held up two plastic fetus dolls — one at the 12-week stage and one at the 20-week stage. “Undoubtedly, this child does feel pain,” he said referring to the 20-week-stage doll. “I hope that you will have the merciful impulse to vote for this measure.”

Delegate Vivian E. Watts, Fairfax County Democrat, tried to amend the bill to remove language that defines a fetus as a “member of the species Homo sapiens from fertility until birth.”

“I’m particularly distressed that this bill is used as a vehicle to slip into our code for the first time a definition of life that is the belief of some religions but is not the belief of all religions,” she said.

The amendment was rejected and the House approved the bill on a voice vote. The bill will be sent to the Senate Education and Health Committee once it passes the House.

Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., a centrist Republican from Winchester and committee chairman, dismissed measures that target abortions as “irresponsible, sound-bite politics” that are outside the mainstream.

As lawmakers walked to the House chamber before the vote, protesters shouted, “My life, my choice.” The women, who came to Richmond from across the state, carried signs with messages that read: “Women’s reproductive decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not Virginia legislators.”

Ben Greenberg, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said the women who protested think some lawmakers are trying to limit access to reproductive health services.

“We’ve seen some outrageous legislation that would restrict reproductive rights in creative new ways that suggest opponents will stop at almost nothing,” he said. “There is reason to be very concerned.”

The Family Foundation of Virginia, a conservative family values group, supports the bill. “This legislation does nothing to either expand or limit access to abortion,” said Victoria Cobb, the group’s executive director. “It is a simple measure of compassion.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 9-6 to reject a bill, authored by Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, that would have tightened health and safety regulations on abortion clinics.

The Fairfax County Republican said his bill was drafted to protect the health of women who seek abortions. But opponents argued the regulations were too stringent and would force many clinics to shut down.

Mr. Cuccinelli told the committee that records show that paramedics have been called several times to abortion clinics in Northern Virginia.

Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax County Democrat, questioned those records. “If there was a health hazard, we’d have the medical society in here demanding that it be changed,” he said.

After the vote, dozens of pro-choice activists stood outside the General Assembly Building, cheering and waving signs.

“This is a victory for all the women in Virginia,” said Jatrice Martel Gaiter, president of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington D.C.

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Background investigations of Virginians seeking to adopt a child would have to include whether the applicants are practicing homosexuals if legislation endorsed yesterday by a House committee becomes law.

The Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee voted 17-4 to send Mr. Black’s bill to the floor.

Mr. Black initially proposed prohibiting homosexuals from adopting. After hearing from opponents of the bill, a subcommittee recommended amending the bill to just make homosexual behavior one of the factors considered in the adoption process. The bill does not say how investigators would determine whether an applicant is a practicing homosexual.

The amendment also requires the investigation to determine whether the petitioner “is unmarried and cohabiting with another adult to whom he is not related by blood or marriage.”

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The House Rules Committee yesterday unanimously endorsed a legislative study that would explore options for relocating the Museum and White House of the Confederacy in Richmond.

Attendance at the museum and the White House where Confederate President Jefferson Davis lived during the Civil War has been declining since the 1990s.

Museum officials say the expansion of the nearby Medical College of Virginia and other construction in the area have contributed to the decreasing attendance. Many visitors have said both landmarks are too hard to find.

Delegate Bill Janis, Goochland Republican, said the study will be one of 26 approved by the state for the coming year.

The study would determine the feasibility of moving the landmarks, which are in the city’s Court End neighborhood, to a spot that might attract more visitors. Attendance has declined from a high of 92,000 in the 1990s to an estimated 54,000 last year, museum officials said.

If the study is approved, the legislature would create a study subcommittee, which, Mr. Janis said, would study the cost of moving one or both buildings and the feasibility of relocation from an engineering standpoint.

A full vote will be taken by the House in the coming week.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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