The members of the Constitutional Law Special Subcommittee voted not to report the bill, with a vote of 5 opposed and 2 in favor. Going into the hearing, we were pretty sure we would not pick up any of the 3 Democrats on the Subcommittee, but we were hopeful that the Committee Chairman (Del. Dave Albo) and Del. Kilgore would vote for the bill, as they are both Republicans and both pro-life.
I knew that Chairman Albo had questions about possible unintended consequences of the bill (effects on oral contraception and in vitro fertilization), so I provided him with a full brief on those topics well before the hearing. While it is true that this bill may have moral implications that lead future sessions of the General Assembly to consider further regulation of the discarding of unused embryos by IVF clinics, my brief explained why, as a legal matter, HB112 would not affect any of those practices. It is simply a rule of construction that would construe the word "person," for purposes of Virginia law, to include all human beings.
During the hearing, I pointed out that none of the horrible results feared by some members of the subcommittee have occurred in Missouri, where the statute after which HB112 is modeled has been on the books for over 20 years! Illinois and Louisiana also currently recognize unborn children as legal "persons" from conception.
Many of the questions were fierce, but I honestly cannot think of a question that was left unanswered. Even the Solicitor General of Virginia testified in support of the constitutionality of the bill. Representatives of Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU gave their predictable statements in opposition.
At the close of the testimony, renowned attorney Pat McSweeney rose and gave an incredibly moving, eloquent statement in support of the bill. I could never do it justice, but his point was this: the General Assembly has a responsibility to define who is a "person" for purposes of Virginia law. That is the issue. If other laws must be altered to fit with the fact that all human beings have human rights, so be it.
Nonetheless, the vote was 5-2, and so the bill failed. However, Chairman Albo and Del. Kilgore stated during the hearing that they both would have voted for the bill if it had been identical to the Missouri statute. Which is good information to have on hand for next session....