Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel

General Assembly Issue One: Life Defined And Protected

This is the first in a series about key issues facing this year's General Assembly.

Last year, The Family Foundation successfully advocated for the passage of one of our top priority bills: the "Baby Bill." While the "Baby Bill" closed a loophole in Virginia law that previously allowed the killing of a child just moments after birth, this year we hope to build on that success by taking the protection of life one step further with the passage of legislation that would create a wrongful death statute for the unborn.

The Wrongful Death bill (HB 1440, the Senate bill has yet to be numbered) patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27, Winchester) would provide protection for the unborn in cases where they lose their life due to negligence of another.

While Virginia's Code does include a fetal homicide law, the same unborn life, taken without intention, or premeditation, elicits no penalty. Improving our law to provide for a civil penalty in the cases of fetal manslaughter is essential.

Virginia's current wrongful death law operates in accordance with the "born alive rule." The born alive rule dates back to a 1940s federal court decision declaring that a child could recover damages for injury caused in utero once they were born. By extension, if a baby is born alive (though sometimes barely and only through artificial means) and then dies, a parent can then pursue a wrongful death cause of action for the injury in utero.

Approximately 40 states have gone beyond the born alive rule and now allow for pre-birth wrongful death suits for injury caused to a fetus while in utero. The Wrongful Death bill would bring Virginia in line with current law in the vast majority of states. It defines life as beginning at conception and therefore has the practical effect of expanding the state's wrongful death statue to encompass all unborn children. After all, an unborn life is not only of value when it is wanted by the mother or when its life is intentionally taken by another.

BREAKING NEWS: House Transparency Bill Referred To House Science And Technology Committee

Delegate Ben Cline's (R-24, Amherst) online budget/budget transparency bill (HB 2285) has been referred to the House Science and Technology Committee (click here for members), which is a change from last year, where it was heard in the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Technology, Oversight and Government Activities, where it was held over for study (i.e., killed).  It still may be referred to Appropriations, especially if a fiscal impact is attached to it (no word on that yet, though we expect one, which will hurt its chances), but this is certainly something to watch. Last year, the Department of Planning and Budget stated an online budget would cost the commonwealth $400,000, although the feds were able to put its budget online for $600,000 (for a $2 trillion annual budget vs. two-year $78 billion budget; somehow that reminds us of fuzzy math). Meanwhile, Tertium Quids debunks the cost estimates, here,  and comments on the GOP leadership's growing support for transparency, here.

The Science and Technology Committee meets Mondays at 4:00 p.m. and its first docket does not include the transparency bill, so the earliest it could be introduced is next Monday, January 26. However, it is never too early to contact legislators. See the link above for the c0mmittee members. 

As for the Senate bill (SB 936) there still is no word on when it will get heard in the General Laws Committee (see members here). We are wary of a last minute fiscal impact statement and hearing notification, so as to give committee members a reason to kill it quietly before too much attention is given to the bill. Don't let them get away with it. Contact those committee members (see link above), ASAP, as well. There was some good news on Friday, however: Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27, Winchester), a committee member, signed on as a co-patron.