5 perhaps unanticipated effects of declaring fetuses to be “persons” under Virginia law.

  1. Fetuses must be strapped into child safety seats. (§ 46.2-1095)
  2. A pregnant woman can put her fetus in foster care. (§ 63.2-900)
  3. A judge can order that the state take legal custody of a woman’s fetus if she intends to have an abortion. (§ 16.1-246)
  4. A court is to provide a father visitation rights with a fetus that he has fathered. (§ 20-124.2)
  5. Fetuses may be put to work on the family farm, perform domestic work, or volunteer for the rescue squad. (§ 40.1-79.01)

50 thoughts on “5 perhaps unanticipated effects of declaring fetuses to be “persons” under Virginia law.”

  1. I’m still researching whether fetuses can make campaign contributions. I think a woman undergoing IVF could make contributions in the names of all of her frozen embryos.

  2. Can kids vote, drink, drive, etc. 9 months earlier, since they turn 1 year old a year after conception not birth?

  3. 1. That law obviously needs to be re-written.
    2. Of course. The law allows lots of things that aren’t possible. It allows me to stand on my head in front of the the Virginia State Supreme court for 5 hours if I’d like. That doesn’t make it a good idea or even possible, but the law allows it. That doesn’t say anything bad about the law, only me if I take it seriously.
    3. Sounds like a good idea to me! After all, one of the mandates of both the US and Virginia Constitution is that the state protect the life of the people within its borders.
    4. Sounds good to me too. Scientific studies have shown that talking to persons still in the womb and spending time with them increases their intelligence. Likewise, troubled women with bad relationships affect the people in her womb very, very negatively, even if the kid is adopted out at birth. Furthermore, scientific studies have conclusively shown (great book!) that the involvement of the father in his children’s life dramatically improve their chances of success in life. These two taken together mean that it’s a great idea for fathers to visit their kids pre-birth.
    5. See #2.

  4. In the same week we have Virginia’s new Republican majority legislating forced vaginal probes, and extending eminent domain unto the uterus. Blitzkrieg gegan Frauen!

  5. Hans wrote: 3. Sounds like a good idea to me! After all, one of the mandates of both the US and Virginia Constitution is that the state protect the life of the people within its borders.

    So if the state thinks that a woman is planning on visiting a different state whose laws to not violate federal law (like the personhood law does) & supreme court decisions, they can perform a forced Cesarian on the woman? Your argument here is almost as dumb as the law itself.

  6. Mr. No Hans, ya know, smuggling Jews out of Europe when they were getting slaughtered presented lots of very, very complicated decisions. That didn’t keep brave folks like Corrie Ten Boom and others from stepping up to the plate to save innocent lives. I’m not sure what the solution would be. I’m guessing something along the lines of holding her in a way that she couldn’t harm herself or her baby until she reached a stage where the baby could survive on its own. If you stop and think about it, a hijacker holding a gun to a hostage’s head gets a bullet to brain from a SWAT sniper; a C-section probably wouldn’t be quite as severe, now would it?

  7. Hans,

    That Hitler was conducting genocide / mass murder is a widespread, common assertion held by the vast majority of civilized people.

    That abortion in all but some special cases is tantamount to mass murder is an assertion held primarily by religious extremists who value their own bronze-age beliefs above the rights of everyone else.

    You are now supposing that if the state believes that a woman might be considering an abortion, she should be held without bond? Are we to start chaining pregnant women to hospital beds and keeping them under armed guard until they give birth? Should we just make jail cells in battered women’s clinics, so when women come in after being raped and discover they are pregnant, there is no possibility of escape?

    Thank you for exposing your disgusting bias. You may now return to demanding Obama’s birth certificate and supporting abortion clinic bombings.

  8. Will fetuses, including those which the mother intends to abort, be legally entitled to be claimed for welfare and food stamps?

    If so, what is the estimated annual budget for this new entitlement program?

  9. That abortion in all but some special cases is tantamount to mass murder is an assertion held primarily by religious extremists who value their own bronze-age beliefs above the rights of everyone else.

    That abortion in all but some special cases (assault on the mother) is tantamount to a personal health choice (rather than mass murder) is an assertion held primarily by political extremists who value their own post-modernist beliefs above the rights of the hundreds of millions they are murdering.

    See? There. I told you. I guess that means I’m right and you’re wrong just because I said so.

    You are now supposing that if the state believes that a woman might be considering an abortion, she should be held without bond?

    Dear Mr. No Hans, you have an active imagination. Nowhere did I suggest suspending Constitutional rights re: presumption of innocence, etc. The analogy that I used was a hijacker holding a gun to a hostage’s head which is positive proof of threat to kill. Don’t go all Minority Report on me.

    Thank you for exposing your disgusting bias. You may now return to demanding Obama’s birth certificate and supporting abortion clinic bombings.

    I’ve spoken out on Facebook (and in person) against birthers and against an abortion doctor’s murder about 45 minutes from my house. I’m glad you’re such a clear-headed member of the reality-based community. ;-)

    It may also be useful to note that unlike many of my conservative brethren, I am pro-life across the full range of life’s “choices”. I am a conscientious objector who will not serve in the military or police or defend myself if attacked.

  10. Sadly this thread has hit it’s Godwin law point quicker than expected.

    Wikipedia:

    The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics or racial superiority

  11. I’ve asked many people who are pro-abortion to answer one simple question, but no one has ever been able to do it:

    At what *precise point* do the laws that protect people from the violent acts of other people take effect? When the umbilical cord is cut and the child is breathing? Is it at the moment the head appears in the canal? This actually matters, and the exact moment *must* exist. So when is it?

    A law extending personhood to fetuses would go a long way in clarifying this.

  12. “Pro-abortion”? I guess I can just call you “anti-woman” or “misogynist bigot” if we’re going to be wiping out ambiguity and referring to each other by straw-man terms.

  13. > That abortion in all but some special cases (assault on the mother) is tantamount to a personal health choice (rather than mass murder) is an assertion held primarily by political extremists who value their own post-modernist beliefs above the rights of the hundreds of millions they are murdering.

    My position is supported by statistics, yours is not. Don’t get me wrong, your ideas are just as valid in conversation as anyone else’s. You can come up with your own ideas all you like. But facts don’t work that way.

    So if a woman states she is going to a different state to have an entirely legal medical procedure, she should be held?

  14. Say whatever you want to, call me a nazi over and over again, and you’re still going to have to deal with the fact that the majority of the modern world sees a difference between abortion and (using your example) murder with a pistol pointed at someone’s head.

  15. @No Hans: While I disagree with some of what Hans wrote, there is a difference between “what is right”, and “what is popular”. Just because the majority thinks something doesn’t automatically make it correct (morally or otherwise). I assume that you acknowledge that point.

  16. @I. Publius and @Hans, I’m curious, when does a person, become a person? For some time now, human ova and sperm have been combined in laboratories and resulted in fertilization. These fertilized embryos have been allowed to multiply to multicellular zygotes. Are these people? When a woman pursuing in vitro fertilization, as many fertilized embryos as possible are cultivated, these can easily number in the dozens, and several are implanted into her womb at one time. If she’s successful and does not wish to have her remaining embryos frozen for storage, is it mass murder to discard the remaining embryos, or are they only people when they’re in the womb? If the doctor performing the IVF makes a mistake in the procedure, and the embryos are lost, can he be charged with criminally negligent homicide? If the IVF results in an ectopic pregnancy, can the embryo/fetus be terminated? What about human derived tissue cultures? They’re somewhat indistinguishable from zygotes.

    I guess what I’m saying is, if you think it’s so difficult to suss out when the laws become applicable to a person, do you really not have so hard a time determining when a ball of cells becomes a person?

    jason

  17. I’ve been wondering if pregnant women could claim their fetus as a dependent on their state taxes. But, no—the VA Dep’t of Taxation’s criteria for a dependent is simply anybody who can be claimed on the federal form. And since the federal government wouldn’t recognize a fetus as a person (logically enough), it couldn’t be claimed on state taxes.

  18. Jason, you ask a lot of questions, but ignore mine. Interesting.
    Once again, no one attempts to address the very basic issue of when laws begin to apply to human beings. Shouldn’t be too difficult, should it?

  19. Shouldn’t be too difficult, should it?

    ?? It’s famously difficult! Philosophers, religions, and legal scholars have been chewing this problem over for millennia. (Why am I telling you this? You know this.) Science offers us a large amount of data about when fetuses hit different milestones—that’s relatively well understood—but there remains no agreement on which of those milestones indicate personhood. That’s not liable to change anytime soon, especially given there are so many people who base their conclusion not on science, but on beliefs that have nothing to do with science. Here in Virginia, we have determined that it is at the time that a child is born, but before the cord is cut. That’s how the state code defines it, anyhow.

  20. That’s not liable to change anytime soon, especially given there are so many people who base their conclusion not on science, but on beliefs that have nothing to do with science.

    I’m afraid that you’re striking out blindly there. I don’t believe there’s anything in the Bible or in religious belief that dictates when life begins. I have an Associates in Bible and Theology and I’ve been involved in politics a bit and I’ve never heard Scripture verses used to as a reason to believe that life begins at a certain point vs. another, but you’re right in noting that the Bible has a lot of verses that hint that life begins in the womb. I grew up in a strict Christian home, but I was never taught that the Bible says life begins at conception; it was always, “It’s obvious life begins at conception: look at these sonograms, look at what kids can learn in the womb, look at how they respond.” I remember putting my hands on my mom’s belly and feeling how my brothers and sisters would kick and dance when we’d start singing to them. It was just obvious to anyone without an agenda that there’s a precious little baby in there.

    (It also became very personal for me when I had a baby brother born a few months prematurely. He lived (at UVA hospital) for a week. During that week, we held him, cuddled him, and loved him. It’s infuriating that it’s legal in this country to take little babies just like him, at the exact same stage of development, and kill them, just because the mother doesn’t feel like taking care of him or her. Monstrous.)

    So for me, religion or the Bible never proved or disproved when life began. That was an obvious fact of science. What is unique for us as followers of Jesus is that he teaches us to not kill (some Christians believe that means kill innocent people, I believe that means all people). Society at large has a relativistic mindset and believes that whatever the majority believes is right. That is what happened in Nazi Germany. Hitler moved the Overton window sufficiently to carry out atrocities. As followers of Jesus, we have an absolute moral view that all killing of people is wrong. As science has revealed that fetuses are clearly little human babies, that absolute moral standard has something to work with.

  21. A friend just posted this on her Facebook status: “I saw a 3D ultrasound picture of our baby’s little face yesterday!!!! It was INCREDIBLE. w.o.w. It really did something to Dave and i just to see that cute little face.. Now to meet this baby!!!”

    I’m afraid the pro-choice movement has been left behind by science. Their only tools are obscuring the truth of science by fighting laws that mandate education, sonograms, etc.

  22. I have an Associates in Bible and Theology and I’ve been involved in politics a bit and I’ve never heard Scripture verses used to as a reason to believe that life begins at a certain point vs. another, but you’re right in noting that the Bible has a lot of verses that hint that life begins in the womb.

    Hans, it’s not about Bible verses. (The Bible also doesn’t have anything to say about contraception.) It’s about belief in a soul. Until recently, people who believed in a soul believed that the soul entered the body at the time of the “quickening,” the time when a mother could first feel the fetus move. That generally occurs sometime in the second trimester. Those who believe in a soul usually believe that a) this is unique to humans b) that this defines us as humans and c) that there must be some point in time when the soul enters the body. What has changed is the belief that the soul enters the “body” (if you can call it that) at the moment that man’s sperm enters a woman’s egg. That those two cells are instantly imbued with a soul is a concept that is not—cannot be—rooted in science, but in religion. That belief, incidentally, is held by Bob Marshall, the patron of HB1.

    Their only tools are obscuring the truth of science by fighting laws that mandate education, sonograms, etc.

    You forget that it’s conservatives who oppose sex ed, not liberals. Also, it is inaccurate on its face to claim that opposing the requirement that a mother be given sonogram, regardless of its medical necessity, is “obscuring the truth of science.” By that logic, any medical technology pertaining to reproduction should be required because, hey, it exists. Why not require an MRI? A CT scan of the fetus’s brain? Amniocentesis? A computer-aged photo of the fetus to see what it would look like 20 years later? An sepia-toned photo of the mother and fetus dressed up as cowboys in the old west? Is opposing such requirements opposing “the truth of science”? Of course it’s not. It’s about allowing doctors and patients to determine for themselves the appropriate path, within the confines of medical norms, ethical standards, and the needs of the patient. If a sonogram is medically necessary, as it often is, great, have at it. But when it’s not, the requirement that one be done is only to punish women by forcibly penetrating them vaginally for no medical purpose.

  23. You forget that it’s conservatives who oppose sex ed, not liberals.

    This isn’t sex ed, it’s murder ed.

    Furthermore, I don’t oppose sex ed that is neutral. The problem with public school sex ed is that it’s presented from an atheist perspective. That’s what conservatives oppose. Even liberal scholars are beginning to admit the way the breakdown of the family due to the sexual revolution has continued to hold back minorities economically and educationally (excellent book that compiles the studies and scholarship behind this is From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation). The problem conservatives have with sex ed is the kind that encourages promiscuity, which is disproportionately bad for the economically disadvantaged.

    But when it’s not, the requirement that one be done is only to punish women by forcibly penetrating them vaginally for no medical purpose.

    Ok, you’re getting more and more ridiculous. MedicineNet:

    Most prenatal ultrasound procedures are performed topically, or on the surface of the skin, using a gel as a conductive medium to aid in the quality of the image. However, a transvaginal ultrasound is an alternative procedure performed using a tubular probe that is inserted into the vaginal canal. This method of ultrasound produces an image quality that is greatly enhanced, but it is not a common prenatal procedure.

    I hadn’t even heard of a transvaginal ultrasound until you brought it up, and for good reason, because it’s very uncommon.

    The simple fact is that if the Supreme Court legislates and says that we’re not allowed to outlaw pre-birth genocide, we can at least legislate to educate people by showing them video of who they’re gonna kill. If you liberals would really be as pro-science and pro-reason as you’d like to think you are, you wouldn’t object to women having the full scientific picture (literally) before they make a “choice”.

  24. However, because the science is so self-evident at first glance, you’ll do everything you can to keep people from seeing the scientific proof of the truth. Even TV networks have refused to run ads containing sonogram footage. Otherwise, I’d say that’d be a good avenue to educate people as well.

  25. I would not say that due to advances in ultrasound technology the pro-choice movement has been left behind by science. To the contrary, I think that pictures like these cut both ways; the images of the embryo at the earlier stage of development can help bolster arguments in favor of early (first trimester) abortions. I believe there is research that shows that women who see images of early-stage development become more comfortable with their decision to abort, not less.

    And for something like the morning-after pill or chemical abortion (RU-486), an image like this can be really helpful. I suspect anti-choicers are less thrilled to show people images from early development, and would rather sub in pics of third-trimester fetuses.

  26. Agreed, Claire.

    Everyone has assumed that I believe life begins at conception. I’m not quite that dogmatic at this point as I don’t feel I’ve studied the science enough to point to a clear point when life begins. However, I know that clearly third trimester abortion is murder. I do however believe it’s sickening that folks would take a risk at being a murderer just because they’re too lazy to use contraception.

  27. It’s about belief in a soul.

    Waldo, what do you atheists (or whatever your religious belief is) call whatever-it-is that humans have that cows don’t (assuming you eat steak, but not human flesh)?

  28. “Here in Virginia, we have determined that it is at the time that a child is born, but before the cord is cut. That’s how the state code defines it, anyhow.”

    I’m not sure the law is a cut & dry as that, but let’s assume that’s what the is in Virginia. Do YOU think that there is any real difference between a human being at the moment of birth and a moment before?

    BTW, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled this week that a woman can move foreward with a wrongful death suit over the death of her stillborn fetus. The law is rapidly moving to recognize the personhood of the unborn.

  29. Hans, if you are (as I am) troubled by the thought of a late-term abortion, you might want to consider that a way to reduce the number of them (which is relatively small to begin with) would be to make early-pregnancy abortion more accessible and less stigmatized. If a woman faces the prospect of driving miles and miles to get to one of the only two abortion providers in her state, where she has to be given “counseling” and then wait 24 hours before having the procedure (meaning spending the night there or making the drive home and then back again the next day), if there are screaming protesters outside the clinic, then is it all that surprising that some women delay dealing with their unwanted pregnancy, ending up with a pregnancy that is very nearly in its third term?

    It would probably also help if you (and many others) weren’t stigmatizing women who seek later-term abortions as “too lazy to use contraception,” when the real reasons are more complex and in some cases understandable. A woman who is raped isn’t “too lazy to use contraception”; a woman who wants the pregnancy but discovers that going to term threatens her life isn’t “too lazy to use contraception”; a woman who learns that her baby has a fetal defect incompatible with life isn’t “too lazy to use contraception.” I realize you might argue that all of these women should not be allowed to have an abortion anyway, but you have to acknowledge (if you’re an honest person) that they aren’t simply “too lazy to use contraception.” And I would hope you can recognize that throwing out that slander as if it accurately summed up why (relatively few) women seek late-term abortions is incredibly sloppy and not a little bit vicious.

  30. Hans, curious as to how you square your assertion that women seeking abortions are “too lazy to use contraception” with your belief that sex ed should remain “neutral” and avoid teaching how to properly use it?

  31. Another thing, Hans — you write, “I hadn’t even heard of a transvaginal ultrasound until you brought it up, and for good reason, because it’s very uncommon.”

    It simply is not uncommon. I’ve had three, two in relation to pregnancy and one for other gynecological reasons. In early pregnancy, a transvaginal ultrasound is often the only way to get a sonographic image, depending on how early the pregnancy is or on how the woman’s uterus lays. Also, for obese women, transvaginal ultrasound is the only way to get a good sonographic image. Add up all those women, and you get a not uncommon procedure.

  32. Hey Hans, atheism is not the same thing as just leaving religion out of a conversation or an issue. To say that sex education is presented from an atheist perspective in public schools is sort of like complaining that school lunch is presented from an atheist perspective because there isn’t a rabbi there to perform a blessing before everyone eats. The Bible can be construed as having something to say on nearly any imaginable subject — and different denominations even within Christianity have very interpretations of what the message really is — but we have a separation of church and state which demands that we leave that out of government-paid activities.

    Separation of church and state is not the same thing as atheism. You can have a group of devoted Christians who come together as, say, members of a city council, and they don’t magically become atheists just because they have a temporary non-religious duty to perform.

  33. But when it’s not, the requirement that one be done is only to punish women by forcibly penetrating them vaginally for no medical purpose.

    Ok, you’re getting more and more ridiculous. MedicineNet:

    This method of ultrasound produces an image quality that is greatly enhanced, but it is not a common prenatal procedure.

    Hans, you’re confusing pregnancy with abortion. It is not a common prenatal procedure, because ultrasounds aren’t generally performed until 16 weeks (if I recall correctly—I haven’t had to think about that since summer). If one must be performed early in pregnancy, a transvaginal ultrasound is the only way to get an image with sufficient resolution to be of any use. More to the point, I said that the requirement that something be done medically for no medical purpose is unnecessary. That point stands.

    If you liberals would really be as pro-science and pro-reason as you’d like to think you are, you wouldn’t object to women having the full scientific picture (literally) before they make a “choice”.

    Again, then why not require an MRI? A CT scan of the fetus’s brain? Amniocentesis? A computer-aged photo of the fetus to see what it would look like 20 years later? An sepia-toned photo of the mother and fetus dressed up as cowboys in the old west? You’re not anti-science or anti-reason, are you?

  34. Here in Virginia, we have determined that it is at the time that a child is born, but before the cord is cut. That’s how the state code defines it, anyhow.

    I’m not sure the law is a cut & dry as that, but let’s assume that’s what the is in Virginia.

    For the purpose of the charge of murder, that is the case. Or, rather, was the case. I forgot about Steve Newman’s SB602, a result of the Campbell County woman who killed her newborn while the umbilical cord was still attached, and thus could not be charged with murder. That resulted in 18.2-32.3, which specifies that is no longer the standard. So what it is now, I have no idea!

    Do YOU think that there is any real difference between a human being at the moment of birth and a moment before?

    Nope.

  35. I am disgusted with those who like to use shock phrases like “pro abortion” or “pro abortionists”.

    This is unnecessary, and only inflames the debate so nothing can be accomplished. Not to mention that no one is “pro abortion”.

  36. Hm…. I fear, Hans, that you have violated the Biblical principle found in Matthew 7:6. The sanctity of human life is clearly not shared by those in favor of women being able to have abortions (pro-abortion. That’s how we come up with the term pro-abortion. It’s not a shock phrase, it’s a simple and completely valid english shortcut we use to save ourselves time. I’m pro-jails, not that I WANT them to be needed)

    The advance of science has historically presented many moral issues beyond just “when does life begin?” Nevertheless, any theological or scientific argument about the “moment the soul enters the body and life begins” is completely moot and missing the point. What is the #1 cause of abortions? Sex. Why do people want to have abortions OK when some guy and girl chose to have sex with each other? They want more sex and less responsibility. (I am assuming a child brings upon responsibility) It’s nothing more than that. And before you bring up cases like rape, life of mother, yada yada yada perhaps you’ll carefully consider that very few people on the “anti-abortion” side actually want to make such cases illegal, and I am clearly not talking about such cases. Discretionary abortion is all about sex (or the lack of abstinence -see below). No I don’t hate women; your assertion is completely off-base and ignorant of many of the facts of the matter.

    And also, for those of you interested in contraceptives, I have a statistics lesson for you. The breakage rate for condoms isn’t 20% as some people have reported, it is 4.64%. Sounds good right? Well…. until you use a condom on multiple occasions (not the same one, dufus) Basic statistics says that after 20 uses, the non-breakage rate will be (95.36%)^20 which is 38.67%. This means that you have a 61.33% chance of breakage at least once for every 20 uses of a condom.

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