Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall is trying to criminalize abortions and shame women, and he’s halfway there. The 67 year-old Roman Catholic is pushing legislation that would further penalize women for seeking legal reproductive choice options. And if that weren’t bad enough, he’ll take this anti-choice framework with him as he runs for the US Senate this fall.
If you haven’t heard of Marshall here’s some background: he’s the chief sponsor of Virginia’s Personhood Bill which made it through the VA House of Delegates after two failures. The bill – an embarrassment to Virginia – affords legal personhood status to an embryo, thereby making any type of abortion a crime of murder. Marshall – who is devoutly opposed to all forms of contraceptives, “including abortion” – says that the bill is in no way outlawing abortions because “it doesn’t address birth control.” Opponents of Marshall’s crusade for fetuses have pointed out that this omission does not adequately address the wide-reaching implications of the legislation.
Marshall’s rationale comes straight from the new Republican playbook of legislation; the strategy is not just to legislate morality, but to legislate the most extreme fundamentalist position on that morality. This is the same playbook that led ultra-conservative claimed that disabled children are a couple’s punishment for supporting abortion or that a gay person who had sex 14 times last month is too distracting for you to fight on the battlefield. The Personhood Bill may not directly mention abortion, but the intent is clear: anti-choice politicians want to use sweeping generalities that appeal to the religious majority to suppress the rights of women. Presumably the same women who Marshall has said are too unintelligent to take birth control so they elect to abort.
Everything about this delegate is a shameful embarrassment to Virginia. He thinks the Affordable Care Act – which requires most Americans to carry health insurance – is the same thing as being raped. When asked about abortion in the case of incest, he said that incest is sometimes voluntary. And on the topic of abortion from a rape, he said that the woman should put aside her embarrassment (because that’s what she’s feeling) and recognize her new role as a “sin-bearer,” whose rights are now trumped by a zygote.
Virginia is already on a roll with its condescending and paternalistic legislation targeting women.This year has already seen the advent of the Mandatory Vagina Penetration Bill creating state-sanctioned rape and a zygote trumping any and all individual rights a woman may have. The 2012 senate seat currently held by Jim Webb is practically a guaranteed win for Marshall, who announced his candidacy to represent the entire state mid-January.
If these bills are signed into law then Virginia may just become the worst state in the country for women who enjoy selfish things like civil rights and individuality to live in. At this rate, there’ll be a new reason Virginia starts with “Virgin”: it’s the only time a woman will belong to herself.