Virginia Is for Zygote Personhood?

Virginia lawmakers want to grant fertilized eggs the same rights as adults. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/biblicone/980953625/sizes/m/in/photostream/">biblicone</a>/Flickr


We’ve covered the litany of so-called “personhood” measures—conferring legal rights on fertilzed eggs—that have popped up around the country since Mississippi voters defeated just that sort of effort last November. Now Virginia could become the first state in the country to actually pass personhood legislation.

On Tuesday, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill introduced by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) by a 66-32 vote. The bill, like other “personhood” measures, would amend the definition of the word “person” under state law to include zygotes, thereby granting them legal rights. The summary reads:

Provides that unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth, subject only to the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States, precedents of the United States Supreme Court, and provisions to the contrary in the statutes of the Commonwealth.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. The bill now must be cleared by the state senate to move forward. But earlier this month, a panel in the state senate rejected a bill that would have limited abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception. This latest bill would be far more restrictive, potentially prohibiting all abortions and likely some common types of oral contraception. Virginia’s House of Delegates also recently passed a new law forcing women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.

Passage of this latest bill in the House of Delegates makes Virginia “dangerously close to making Virginia the first state in the country to grant personhood rights to fertilized eggs,” says Tarina Keene, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. She noted that the state code mentions the word “person” 25,000 times, which would give this redefinition a broad reach into many aspects of the law. The measure now faces a vote.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.