SIX YEARS ago, when Virginia’s General Assembly considered the so-called “personhood amendment” to the state constitution, which granted full rights to “preborn human being[s] from the moment of fertilization,” the list of co-sponsors was short. In the state Senate, five of 40 lawmakers, all Republicans, signed on. Among them were then-Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II and Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, the current GOP candidates for governor and attorney general, respectively.
There’s a reason the amendment had relatively few sponsors, and there’s a reason it failed even in the Republican-dominated House of Delegates. Not only would the amendment have banned abortion, as the sponsors clearly intended, it also provided an opening to prohibit common methods of birth control, including the pill and intrauterine devices.
To most Virginia legislators, including many Republicans, the 2007 “personhood” bill was too far-reaching, a potentially radical intrusion into domestic, family and individual decision-making. Although Republicans held 57 seats in the 100-member House, the bill got just 43 votes.