Virginia bill would count a fetus as a car passenger in HOV lanes

A bill in Virginia considers a pregnant person’s unborn baby to be a passenger in a car, allowing cars to use highway carpool lanes.

Reproductive rights activists say the law seeks to further curtail abortion rights for anti-abortion Republican lawmakers by promoting so-called personahood laws, which seek to protect fetal rights in unconventional ways. It is said that it corresponds to a faintly hidden attempt to do so.

HB 1894, which Republican lawmakers pre-submitted to the General Assembly on Tuesday, states that “for the purposes of determining occupancy rates, pregnant women are two and three” in high-occupancy vehicles and high-occupancy toll lanes on state highways. stipulates that it shall be considered

The law requires a pregnant person to show “proof” of pregnancy, which can be obtained by “verifying” the pregnancy at the state transportation department. Under this bill, the authorization would be “linked” to the vehicle’s toll collection device (usually her EZ Pass).

This bill is the second of its kind ever proposed. Last year, the Texas Republican Party introduced similar measures. Texas’ HB 521 also allowed a single pregnant driver to use a highly occupied lane, proposing that the fetus being carried equates to a person deserving full human rights.

Legislators proposed the bill, but it never advanced in a Republican-controlled Congress. A pregnant Dallas woman made headlines after claiming to police officers that her unborn baby was counted as the second person in the car when her car was pulled over for illegally using a carpool. am. LANE.

A heavily occupied lane requires that the driver has at least one passenger in the vehicle when using the lane.

Like Texas’ HB 521, Virginia’s HB 1894 is unlikely to advance in the state’s politically divided legislature.

Still, advocates of reproductive rights say the bill will help prevent abortion by anti-abortion Republicans by promoting a “personality” law aimed at establishing measures that equate human life with the fetus. It warns that it is the latest attempt to cut rights.

“Giving legal rights to a fertilized egg from the moment of conception has far-reaching and detrimental consequences for the entire population,” said Tarina Keane, executive director of Repro Rising Virginia, a reproductive rights group. Wax. Those could include a “huge” impact on stem cell research and the freedom to undergo in vitro fertilization, she added.

Other advocates warn that such measures would help limit access to abortions by defining the fetus as a person.

“Anti-abortion groups were looking for ways to change the law in a way that would change the definition of a pregnant person from one to two.” increase.

“In doing so, they give personality throughout the pregnancy. It ultimately becomes difficult to protect the … basically imbuing the fetus with personality,” Nash added.

Nicholas Freitas
Nicholas Freitas.Steve Helber / AP Files

Republican Rep. Nicholas Freitas, the originator of the Virginia bill, did not respond to questions about the bill.

According to Guttmacher, who closely tracks state laws that seek to curtail or prohibit abortion rights, the Texas and Virginia bills are the only personality laws specifically targeting car pool lanes introduced in the United States. am.

But according to Guttmacher, last year lawmakers across the country introduced eight bills that would explicitly or effectively ban abortion by establishing the personality of the fetus.

Arizona enacted a 15-week anti-abortion law signed by the government at the time. Republican Doug Ducey said it contained provisions carried over from the 2021 law, which advocates for reproductive rights would give a fetus a personality. A federal judge he blocked the provision in July.

Despite the limited prospects of Virginia’s bill moving forward, reproductive rights advocates argued that even the concept of such a personality bill was, at one point, “ridiculous” about anything with occupancy rules. ‘It warned that it could lead to new regulations and laws.

“When you’re talking about building occupancy rates and things like that, you’re creating this legal nightmare about the numbers,” Keane said.

“That could affect how many people are in the elevator,” she added.

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