Virginia GOP Pulls a Pelosi

State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel admitted she had “no concept” about the true extent of her personhood bill.

Republicans in Richmond should not be terribly proud that they are one small step above Nancy Pelosi.

“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” Pelosi said about Obamacare in 2010. GOP lawmakers evidently did not know, until it was pointed out to them by noted medical experts such as comedian Jon Stewart, what was in the ultrasound bill they were poised to pass last week: that it would force many abortion-seeking women to submit to a transvaginal procedure against their will.

Even the legislation’s sponsor, State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, admitted she had “no concept” about the true extent of her bill—and she wasn’t sure she believed it after being told. Once they found out, though, Republicans beat a rapid retreat. A compromise measure will require an abdominal ultrasound but make the vaginal kind voluntary. Mighty big of them.

“I think a lot of us didn’t understand” the import of Vogel’s bill, says Del. David Albo, who offered the substitute. “But the system works. Today, in my opinion, is an example of people listening to constructive criticism and coming up with the right solution.”

Well, not exactly. It was more like an example of people pelting toward a cliff and tripping just before they reach the edge. Or playing Russian Roulette with a semiautomatic and having the gun jam. A recapitulation of the Philadelphia constitutional convention it was not.

In the State Senate the next day, Republicans had to resort to parliamentary maneuvers to defeat their own HB1. That bill to grant personhood from the moment of conception already had passed the House, and might have made it to the governor’s desk if not for the public fury surrounding both it and the ultrasound bill.

What the personhood measure might have meant in practice is anyone’s guess. The text of the bill stipulated that it did not supersede any existing law or court precedent. In that regard it was as toothless as Virginia’s 2000 constitutional amendment stipulating that “the people have a right to hunt, fish, and harvest game, subject to such regulations and restrictions as the General Assembly may prescribe.”

A right to do only what the government says you can do is not much of a right, and a bill to restrict abortion except wherever abortion is allowed is not much of a restriction. On the other hand, supporters clearly intended it as a first step on the road toward overturning Roe v. Wade. “House Bill 1 will not end abortion in Virginia just as the Declaration of Independence with its noble recognition of inalienable rights [did] not end slavery,” said the Rutherford Institute’s Rita Dunaway.

Still, a wayward court might have used the law to give it a shot. So Senate Republicans chose not to find out what was in the personhood bill by passing it, either. Or at least they chose not to invite further public wrath. Whatever else you think of the state GOP, it obeys the First Rule of Holes.

This has been the story of bill after bill. Republicans pushed a measure to require drug testing of welfare recipients—then dropped it after they found out how much it would cost. A measure to cite motorists for texting while driving slammed into a wall when legislators realized it would give cops a license to read people’s e-mail. A Senate committee narrowly killed a bill that would have required police officers to verify the citizenship of every person arrested for any offense—never mind that resident aliens with visas need not be citizens to live here.

With a couple of exceptions such as repealing one-gun-a-month, state Republicans seem intent on proving the theory that government is a one-way ratchet. Rather than roll back edicts written when Democrats were in charge, they mostly have tried to impose new edicts of their own. Instead of making government smaller, they have simply sought to make it bigger in different ways. And in their haste to impose their will on others, they drafted bill after bill whose consequences they did not comprehend.

Democrats and pro-choice advocates should not feel superior, however. Compared to Obamacare, the bills noted above were case studies in simplicity—some were less than a page long—and foresight. And some of them, notably the personhood bill, employ precisely the same reasoning as health-care reform.

Supporters of the personhood bill insist a mother has a moral duty to provide for her fetus before it is born. Obamacare insists everyone else has a moral duty to provide for it afterward. Liberals who lament that social conservatives are imposing their values on others by force should ask themselves where conservatives ever got that idea in the first place.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this article originally appeared.

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  • ||

    The opposition didn't understand what was in the bill either...

  • sarcasmic||

    government is a one-way ratchet

    That about sums it up.

  • annonymous commenter some guy||

    Liberals who lament that social conservatives are imposing their values on others by force should ask themselves where conservatives ever got that idea in the first place.

    We have got ourselves a chicken-or-egg case here.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Supporters of the personhood bill insist a mother has a moral duty to provide for her fetus before it is born."

    They insist the mother has a moral duty not to kill her children, whether in the womb or out of it.

  • we||

    Or, if she is going to "kill it," she should at least be made to suffer through a ultrasound wand-probing first.

  • ||

    There should be one overriding law at both the state and federal level: Prior to passing a new law, the legislative body must throw out two standing laws.

  • Dylan||

    Except that they will just copy and paste the two old bills to the new one.

  • Liberty Dude||

    I'm assuming you're not a paid politician? If an amateur can find such a creatively simple loophole, I tremble at the ingenuity of power hungry professionals.

  • wareagle||

    right-wing social engineering is no prettier than its left-wing counterpart. On the other hand, things must be otherwise good in VA if the legislature has time to do this kind of tinkering.

  • strat||

    Virginia's government has its moments of political heroism that might almost do justice to the colony's history. Unfortunately, they're often interspersed with backward, horrifically primitive statist crap.

    The Commonwealth recovered from the stupid miscegenation and eugenics laws, and does pretty well with the 2nd amendment, but when it comes to sex, well, it's illegal for people there to buy all of those nifty new products Trojan is advertising on TV, for example.

  • Doctor Whom||

    On the other hand, things must be otherwise good in VA if the legislature has time to do this kind of tinkering.

    Politicians are as good at setting priorities as they are at what else they do.

  • Matrix||

    So they're complaining because of the way the ultrasound is performed because it is invasive? Shoot. I guess that's bad, because nothing else about abortion requires invasive procedures.

  • The Unborn||

    No shit. And if we're not human, why does a nurse have to count our fingers, toes, and limbs after we've been killed to make sure nothing was left behind?

  • jacob||

    Thanks

    I was worried I was the only one who caught that.

  • we||

    The law would apply to abortion-pill methods, as well.

    But let's follow your logic: assuming a surgical abortion, what other devices/digits/equipment should we be allowed to shove up there against her consent since it's all the same in the end?

  • Jelly Belly||

    Having observed a number of these, I'm wondering why any probing is necessary. All the ultrasounds I have seen where done through the mother's belly. No insertion necessary.

  • ||

    That there is one smug grimace.

  • Tony||

    I fail to see what Nancy Pelosi has to do with this--a person who would be as vehemently opposed to this misogynistic bullshit as anyone. Some kind of nervous tic? You can't criticize Republican theocrats without making it about the Pelosi monster too?

  • H man||

    Real or spoof, I can't tell. Because if this is real, you've missed the point so badly you must be unstoppable at knife fighting.

  • Tony||

    Pelosi's oft-rehashed quote was taken out of context and is not much more than a bouncy ball for the clapping seals of conservative talk radio land. She knew what was in the bill. The rest of the sentence "away from the fog of controversy" indicates that what she meant to say--though she did it inartfully (burn her!!)--was that, like a lot of legislation, its particulars aren't appreciated until after it's removed from the political hysterics involved in getting a bill to the floor.

    This entire piece is an attempt to pin scary theocratic anti-woman nonsense on liberals, because as we all know liberals are the evil at the heart of everything, even things they would by definition strongly oppose.

  • The Unborn||

    Sure, Tony, nothing evil about the American Holocaust. What about the unborn women who have been killed?

  • Tony||

    Unless you favor charging women who get abortions with murder and putting them in prison for life, then you aren't being serious about this.

  • The Unborn||

    Ok, numbnuts, I'm all in - murder charges for women and the abortionists. Crimes against humanity trials for the liberals who would defend abortion with their dying breath.

  • we||

    "All in."

    Yes! That's exactly where we want you. Now try and sell yourself to the voting public.

  • ||

    But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

    I really don't see what adding the last phrase does to save the quote, Tony.

    She knew what was in the bill.

    Bullshit. No one person knew everything that was in that bill. Certainly not Nancy Pelosi.

    The charitable interpretation of her getting waivers for so many of her constituents is that when she found out how the bill would affect them, she got waivers for them. IOW, she was surprised.

    The uncharitable intepretation, of course, is that she knew the bill would fuck over a lot of people, but made sure that there was a way for the politically connected to get out from under.

    So, if you want to say she knew what was in the bill, you pretty much have to agree that she knew it was a bad bill that could be waived for her friends.

    Take your pick.

  • Eric||

    It's because of the Libertarian commandment: "Thou shalt not criticize Team Red to an extent that outweighs criticism of Team Blue"

    I think it may have started with Matt Stone's little quip.

  • we||

    oof - that landed square on the chin

  • ||

    ""“I think a lot of us didn’t understand” the import of Vogel’s bill, says Del. David Albo, who offered the substitute. “But the system works. Today, in my opinion, is an example of people listening to constructive criticism and coming up with the right solution.”""

    Yeah, the system worked if you count SNL as part of the process.

  • Lib-Chat ||

    Does anyone else here get a little ♥-on when he sees that picture of Nancy holding that big, hard prop-gavel?

  • ||

    State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, admitted she had “no concept” about the true extent of her bill.

    Which is completely unacceptable. It's her fricking job to know what's in the bills she sponsors.

  • Realist||

    Democracy: A form of government where fucking idiots with no integrity are elected to power by fucking idiots with no integrity.

  • JCA||

    Just out of curiosity - can't Obamacare effectively compel you to have a transvaginal ultrasound? Various medical tests are already required to obtain insurance. You can always opt out of the insurance if you don't approve of the test - except that Obamacare mandates insurance?

  • we||

    Short answer: no.

  • Liberty Dude||

    Yes. B/c the HHS secretary has arbitrary power. She may mandate it as a requirement for the procedure, much as the VA legislature did.

  • Con MD||

    It is standard protocol to obtain an ultrasound ALREADY prior to an abortion. It is medical standard of care to make sure there is a pregnancy prior to giving medical abortifacients or performing a surgical abortion. Thus, the law merely requires the abortion provider to show the pre-abortion ultrasound to the patient.

    So please no Rachel Maddow hysteria.

  • Leftists||

    Aww, you take all the fun out of it!

  • Liberty Dude||

    Even supporters of abortion admit it is a huge decision. Simply looking at the debate in it's totality, there is a high index of suspicion that this is not a run of the mill medical procedure.

    Nevertheless, I have no interest in the destruction of some low-life's young... that's one less welfare check that I am forced to pay.

    On the other hand, I have no interest in whether they are inconvenienced in the process. You might as well ask me to oppose a law that requires psychological testing of violent criminals before they are put out on parole. I don't give a damn that you might be inconvenienced by it.

    That being said, this legislation gives the true evil in this country - the left - more ammunition, and for that reason I oppose it.

  • cardboard displays||

    Prior to passing a new law, the legislative body must throw out two standing laws

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