Birth-Control Bill Dies in Senate; Legislation Sought to Ban Pill at State Universities

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Bellantoni, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

RICHMOND - A Senate committee yesterday killed legislation that would have prohibited the distribution of the morning-after birth control pill at state-supported colleges and universities.

The Education and Health Committee, without debate, voted 10-4, to reject Delegate Robert G. Marshall's bill, which the House narrowly passed last week.

Yesterday's vote illustrated the social schism between the more conservative House and the more moderate Senate.

The same committee was expected to hear several other bills related to emergency contraception yesterday but it postponed the votes on them so lawmakers could begin debating the proposed budgets.

Many said the committee is poised to reject House bills that limit access to emergency contraception and pass those bills that would make it more available. One bill would require parents give consent before a minor is given the morning-after pill. Another would allow teachers to give information on the morning-after pill in the case of rape.

Mr. Marshall, Prince William County Republican and one of the legislature's most outspoken abortion opponents, pledged to revive such legislation in the future.

"This building will fall to dust before I quit," Mr. Marshall said.

Dozens of college students and reproductive-rights advocates crowded the morning committee hearing.

"Leave medical decisions in the hands of medical professionals and don't put hurdles in [front] of women seeking contraception," said Sally Hanson, a second-year medical student at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School.

The morning-after pill, which can be taken up to 72 hours after intercourse, inhibits ovulation, implantation and fertilization of an egg.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies the pill as a contraceptive, but some critics consider it a form of nonsurgical abortion and claim that it encourages reckless sexual behavior.

Doctors testified yesterday that taking the pill was not the same as having an abortion. They passed out charts showing how the pill works and deemed it was safe.

Julie Makimaa of Holland, Mich., urged the committee to support Mr. Marshall's bill, and said that when she met her birth mother for the first time 19 years ago, she learned she had been conceived in a rape.

"How thankful I was for the sacrifice my birth mother made," Miss Makimaa said. "My life has value."

Mr. Marshall told the committee: "There is a burden when we ask a woman to carry a baby to term after sexual assault, but there also is a beauty to it. …