Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two Virginia GOPers Block Personhood Bill

Not a person?

Here is Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall's report on the defeat of important legislation in Virginia:

Despite excellent testimony in favor of HB 112, Delegate Bob Marshall's bill to begin the process of restoring civil rights for preborn children, HB 112 was rejected five to two in the House Courts of Justice Constitutional Laws subcommittee Wednesday, February 10.

Delegates Albo (R-Springfield), Kilgore (R-Wise), Toscano (D-Charlottesville), McClellan (D-Richmond) and Watts (D-Annandale) voted no. Delegates Athey (R-Front Royal) and Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) voted yes. Delegate Miller moved to report HB 112 and Delegate Athey seconded the request. (Please thank them!)

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent his Solicitor General to testify in support of passing HB 112 and to affirm its constitutionality. Attorney Rita Dunaway expertly fielded questions of Committee members. Attorney Pat McSweeney along with Delegate Marshall also testified in favor of HB 112.

The ACLU, Planned Parenthood and NARAL representatives testified against HB 112. Virginia Family Foundation (VFF) representatives were present but did not speak. The Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) told the Committee that the bill's purpose was acceptable, but they did not support HB 112.

Delegate Dave Albo cited the VCC's position in his explanation for voting against HB 112. “Even the Catholic Church through its legislative affairs representative stated that … the Church does not think this bill is the way to implement it. Delegate Kilgore in a 2/11/10 email told an HB 112 supporter that "The bill as presented was not even supported by the Catholic Church."

Had delegates Kilgore and Albo voted for HB 112, it would have passed to the full House of Delegates! (The position of the two Virginia Catholic bishops and the Catholic Conference in not supporting HB 112 is in direct opposition to the testimony of four Catholic American Cardinals before the US Senate in 1974. The Cardinals said establishing legal personhood for preborn children was essential to outlawing abortion. For details, contact Del. Bob Marshall.)

Opponents to HB 112 claimed the bill would have adverse consequences, such as counting preborn children in the census, criminalizing miscarriages as homicide, outlawing birth control, taking income tax deductions for children before birth, or closing in vitro clinics, yet in the three states which have laws similar to HB 112, nothing like this has happened. HB 112, though not identical, was modeled after a 1986 Missouri law which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Delegates Albo and Kilgore both told Delegate Marshall and other HB 112 supporters Wednesday night at the hearing and later that had HB 112 contained the original Missouri language they would have supported HB 112. Delegate Marshall therefore had the Missouri language drawn up as an amendment the next day, hoping a Courts Committee member would offer the original Missouri language at the full committee meeting on Friday.

However, on Friday, February 12, no Republican member of the full Courts of Justice Committee brought up HB 112 in order to amend it, apparently because a Republican Caucus policy (applies only to Republican delegates) states that bills failing in Subcommittee should not be taken up by the full committee even though the Rules of the House of Delegates and Parliamentary Rules allow for such actions.

Delegate Albo noted that HB 112 did not stop even one abortion. Delegate Marshall explained that HB 112 was not introduced to outlaw abortion now. However, HB 112 challenged the two legal assumptions of Roe vs. Wade by affirming the humanity and personhood of preborn children, and providing a definition for a human being which the Roe Court said it was unable to do. However, HB 112 would require Virginia Courts to allow “wrongful death” suits for the parents of a preborn child who was killed. HB 112 would also create a public policy tension by questioning why some persons are not protected under Virginia law, and then later offering a direct challenge to the conclusion of Roe and Doe by outlawing abortion and providing for criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions.

Delegate Albo wrote to a constituent on February 12, that HB 112 "is in violation of Roe vs. Wade." This is not correct as the original Missouri language was upheld in 1989 by the US Supreme Court in Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, which also affirmed Roe vs. Wade.

This fact was explained to Delegate Albo by attorney Rita Dunaway at a public hearing on February 10 and in a memo from Rita Dunaway sent to Del. Albo several days before the hearing. Del. Albo also wrote that HB 112 would make the Pill and In-Vitro clinics illegal, even though he was told that this has not happened in Missouri, Louisiana or Illinois which have similar laws, and the Dunaway memo pointed out this claim was false. Delegate Marshall also explained that a corpus dilecti, (dead body) is needed for proof of homicide, which would be impossible to produce by use of the Pill.

HB 112 provided rules of legal construction for statutes for Virginia Courts and state agencies to affirm personhood for preborn children. HB 112 could not be applied as a criminal statute because of constitutional due process requirements to clearly specify the elements of a crime.

Attorney Pat McSweeney (former Chair, Republican Party of Virginia) eloquently told the Subcommittee that it was unconscionable for legislators to duck the simple task of affirming personhood for preborn children and that legal definitions matter and have profound personal and social consequences. McSweeney pointed to the practice of German guards, who wrote on box cars containing Jews, the number of "sticke" which meant "pieces," a dehumanizing label which allowed the Nazi’s to rationalize the killings.

For clarification, here is the text of the bill that the GOPers voted against:

Whereas, the Constitution of Virginia provides in Article I, Section 1 that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; and

Whereas, the Constitution of Virginia further provides in Article I, Section 11 that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. § 1. That a human being is any organism, including an embryo, who possesses a genome specific for and consistent with a member of the species Homo sapiens. For the purposes of certain inherent and constitutionally guaranteed rights, every human being is deemed a legal person in the Commonwealth.

§ 2. Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being, and the natural parents of unborn children have protectable interests in the life, health, and well-being of their unborn children.

§ 3. Subject to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia, the laws of the Commonwealth shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of all human beings, including unborn children at every stage of development, the equality and inherent rights guaranteed by Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia and the right to due process guaranteed by Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia.

§4. Nothing herein shall be construed to expand, limit, or otherwise modify any determination of law regarding what constitutes appropriate medical services for pregnant women.

I have asked the Virginia Catholic Conference for a statement about its non-support of this legislation and will post it, when and if it arrives.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Let's Hear It for Feel-Good Films

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy with son Micheal on the field at University of Mississippi, where he began his football career.

If you are going to drop $10.50 to see a film at the local movie theater (rather than waiting a few weeks for it to be released on DVD so you can watch it at home from the comfort of your recliner) you may as well enjoy the full silver screen experience. By this I mean that you should come out of the theater feeling happy and convinced that life is good--rather than despondent about the fact that Columbus discovered America (think Avatar), confused about precisely how an evil genius expected to take over the world (think Sherlock Holmes), or convinced that the human race will never overcome racism (think Crash) .

I give five stars to The Blind Side, the story of NFL star Michael Oher's adoption by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (and their biological son and daugher), of New Orleans. The family befriended and adopted Michael when he was 15 years old. The Tuohys have become national spokesmen for the adoption of older children out of foster care.

Pienaar and Springbok teammates in Soweto, at a rugby clinic with local children. Mandela sent the Springboks across the country to promote the national game under the slogan: One Team, One Country.
I also recommend Clint Eastwood's new movie Invictus, and not just because Matt Damon does a splendid job as Francois Pienaar, who led South Africa's Springbok rugby team to an upset victory in the 1995 World Cup. I like it because it's a masterful mix of sports drama and politics, and quite useful for educating children on the challenges of statesmanship.

Madela congratulates Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, who holds the World Rugby Cup. Pienaar told the press his team played for "all 45 million South Africans."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comforts During Deep Winter Snows

A bouquet of tulips, preferably red.

Home made bread, preferably with raisins.

Surviving the Blizzard of 2010

It may look as though this week's record snowfall transformed our house and garden into a winter wonderland. But the blizzard of 2010 created a significant challenge for our family, and reminded us once again that we depend on the goodness of others to survive on earth and make our way toward heaven.By late Friday evening, huge drifts of snow had banked up all around our house, blocking our driveway and burying our cars (my Volvo wagon is the white hump on the right above). Several foolishly intrepid drivers had attempted to made it up the hill approaching our neighborhood, and skidded off the road: Snowploughs from Virginia Department of Transportation could not get past them, and our section of the roadway was demoted to the bottom of the list for clearing. The private service we usually rely on to open our driveway couldn't pass them either. We were snowed in and not likely to get out for days.

Then, our power went off. We jumped into survival mode. Unfortunately, we had not taken the weatherman seriously, and had few emergency supplies on hand. Worse still, we had not tested our generator for more than two years, and guess what? It didn't start.

The view from the porch into our side yard during the white-out, high wind conditions on Day 5.

Under these conditions, a house gets pretty cold pretty fast. And this was before the high winds forecast for the second leg of the storm that was scheduled to move through on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike the pioneers of old, who depended on their fireplaces and manual wells, we had no source of heat whatsoever and no water from our electric-fired pump. The shortness of the daylight was frightening: By 5:30 came the sunset, and by 6:00 it was pitch dark.

We survived for two very cold days by running the gas grill in the living room--against all advice that it might produce harmful fumes. But by Monday evening, the propane canister was almost empty. The power company projected another 48 hours would be needed to restore our electricity.

Then, the rescue squad arrived--literally. The squad consisted of our dear cousin Katie, who commandeered a snazzy new electric-start generator from a friend, loaded it into her four-wheel-drive SUV, and braved impossible road conditions to deliver it to our door, along with water, hot Italian food, and a bouquet of red tulips. Katie also brought a friend named Frank who is an ace at all things electrical. Just as the propane heater sputtered out, the borrowed generator chugged into action, and we were saved. I should mention that the generator belonged to Frank and his wife, and he cheerfully shared this very expensive piece of equipment to bail us out during the worst weather emergency in over a century.
Every shrub on our porch and in our yard is covered in ice. There will be a huge cleanup effort in the spring.

Frank was back the next day in his own gigantic truck, to deliver a new generator and three days supply of gas. He installed and tested it to make sure we were all set before he loaded up his own machine to get it home in case part II of Snowmageddon hit his house.

Mind you, Katie is close and cherished relative with whom we have had a very special relationship. But Frank is a total stranger. At least he was until he kept all of us from freezing in the dark and won a special place on our family prayer list.