The Moderate Republican Senator is No M
RICHMOND - Today the Virginia Senate passed a bill to classify women's clinics performing first trimester abortions as "hospitals."
The bill, SB 924, also direct the Board of Health to promulgate regulations at women's clinics offering abortion services. Opponents of the bill, say those regulations could close the doors of 17 of the 21 women's clinics offering these services in Virginia.
While 20 of the 22 Democratic Senators voted to kill the bill, all of the Senate's Republican members voted in favor of the legislation. The 20-20 tie was broken when Lt. Governor Bill Bolling voted for passage.
Thursday afternoon Senate Republicans and Democrats debated the impact and constitutionality of the bill on the Senate floor.
"First trimesters abortions in Virginia are safe. It's no need for us to pretend that there is a need for this amendment. What it does is disenfranchise underprivileged young women," said Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple.
"This is a sad, sad day for the women of Virginia and their families. What we are doing is taking our reputation as moderate state and radicalizing it," said Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston.
If anybody thinks this debate is about women's health, get a life. The only physician we have in this body has said what nonsense this is," said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax).
He questioned why these regulations would be imposed on clinics performing more than four first trimester abortions per year, but not offices that conduct colonoscopies or Lasik eye surgeries.
"This debate is about one thing and one thing only: abortion," said Saslaw.
Abortion is usually a divisive issue between Virginia's major political parties. However, the growing presence of the Tea Party movement has been felt in the State Capitol this session.
In past years, a number of Senate Republicans voted against similar abortion legislation. Senator Fred Quayle voted to kill an abortion clinic licensure and regulation bill, HB393, in the Senate Education and Health Committee in 2010.
"The Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party and now has a death grip on Republicans. In the past, Democrats could count on a Republican or two to defeat this type of legislation. Now, they are scared of being primaried by the Extreme Right," said Saslaw.
"These amendments are draconian and patriarchal at best and they are an attempt to limit women's right to an abortion," said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton.
"There has been no state to adopt this type of legislation that would force women to have a first trimester abortion in a hospital. This is unconstitutional under Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey because it puts an undue burden on a woman who is having a first trimester abortion. They should not have to have this simple procedure in a hospital," said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke.
"I cannot tell you how many people will be shut off from access because of this amendment because of privacy. You have a total lack of privacy of a hospital. I hope that we would not take away a person's right to do in privacy what is in his or her best interest," said Sen. Patsy Ticer, D-Alexandria.