coerced abortions

Mischief In Senate Courts? We're Just Asking.

Yesterday, the Senate Courts of Justice Criminal Sub-committee voted to recommend SB 504 to the full Courts committee by a 4-2 margin. The bill criminally penalizes coerced abortions (such as when a boyfriend physically threatens his pregnant girlfriend) and is patroned by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Roanoke). It was the first time this bill had cleared a Senate sub-committee before with a positive vote. It's also the first time it's ever been in Courts. In previous years, it was in Education and Health (known as the "Committee of Death") where it dies quickly. So, on to the full Courts Committee where it might have a chance, right? Not so fast, because something funny happened on the way to the full committee. We think. We're not sure. We're just asking, that's all.

The bill was supposed to be heard in the full committee tomorrow. But one of our lobbyists, in preparing for the meeting, noticed on the bill's Web page that it's entire legislative history was wiped out. Not just changed, mind you, but completely whitewashed. Instead of showing it referred to the Courts Committee and then the sub-committee and the recorded sub-committee vote, it lists a referral to Education and Health. Click here to see for yourself.

Furthermore, as you can see from the video below and yesterday's sub-committee docket, it clearly was in the Courts Criminal Sub-committee (click here). In the video, Sub-committee Chairman Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville) clearly announces the vote total and its next stop in the legislative process, the full Courts of Justice Committee. That should be reflected in the bill's history on its Web page. But it is not. Why? Instead, no votes are recorded, there's no mention of it even being in the Courts Committee and, as if nothing has happened, it appears as an idle bill waiting to be heard for the first time this session in Education and Health.

The only way the SB 504 could be in Education and Health is if a subsequent motion was made to re-refer. But a lobbyist with an allied organization sat through the entire sub-committee meeting and reports that no such motions were made.

So, why does the bill's Web page show that it is in Ed and Health? The coerced abortion bill is as close as it has ever been to a vote on the Senate floor. We are asking only that it gets a fair committee hearing in the committee it was legislatively assigned to.

Let's go to the tape. Sub-committee Chairman Roscoe Reynolds says it, but there's no mention of it on the legislative services Web site.