The first committee meeting on one of our priority bills was this morning in the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. The bill in question is HB 393, which would put only the slightest regulations on the very unregulated abortion centers — an annual inspection, licensure and a requirement to have life saving equipment on premises, such as a defibrillator. Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg) is the patron. Even the General Assembly Building has defibrillators. If they are good enough for lawmakers, they should be good enough for women undergoing a very serious invasive procedure. The plain fact is, abortion centers — not "clinics" mind you, because clinics are where you go to get well — fly under the regulatory radar. Even podiatry offices are more regulated than abortion centers. It's the most hypocritical exemption in Virginia.
So, this morning, the bill was due to come before the full committee, bypassing the sub-committee as is the chairman's want for bills that have been debated for several years. Everyone knows the arguments, it receives large bipartisan support (hate to break that to you liberals), and, in truth, is largely uncontroversial — except for the most adamant abortion-at-any-cost ideologue. The last time this bill came before HWI, in 2008, it passed 17-5, with four Democrats voting in favor, including House Democrat Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville). But there was a problem on the way to the vote . . . Delegate Lionell Spruill (D-77, Chesapeake) objected to the bypassing of the sub-committee process, even though it went straight to full committee in 2008.
His reasoning? There are "four new members of this committee, Mr. Chairman, who have never heard this bill before." To which Delegate Spruill should know that three of them are for the bill. The chairman, Delegate Bobby Orrock (R-54, Caroline County), who replaced former Delegate Phil Hamilton, had the clerk explain the differences in the current bill from the 2008 version. Again, the fact is there are fewer proposed regulations in this bill than the 2008 version.
All this wasn't good enough for Delegate Spruill. So, Delegate Orrock acquiesced and held over the bill. He was to decide by tonight whether to send it to sub-committee or bring it back to full committee on Thursday, by which time, we hope Delegate Spruill will have had time to read the bill. Which is what he should have done in advance of the meeting. If, in fact, he is truly that concerned.