Virginia's 'Personhood' Bill Is Latest Front in the Culture War

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RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- In the Virginia House of Delegates, Republican Robert Marshall is a longtime abortion opponent who has tried repeatedly to pass legislation in his state that would give rights to the unborn.

This year, on his third try, Marshall just might get his wish, and that has advocates for women's reproductive rights concerned.

The House of Delegates passed a so-called "personhood" bill Tuesday sponsored by Marshall that would give unborn children at all stages of development -- including embryos -- the same rights available to "other persons" in the state "subject only to the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States, precedents of the United States Supreme Court, and provisions to the contrary in the statutes of the Commonwealth."

"We need to get back to the respect for life that we used to have in this country that's been lost," Marshall told CNN.

Virginia is the latest front in a long-running battle over women's reproductive rights -- a fight that has taken center stage in recent weeks after a controversial decision by the Obama administration to require religious groups to provide their employees access to birth control in their insurance plans at no cost.

The administration later offered a compromise, after drawing fire from Catholic leaders and other religious organizations. However, the issue has stayed in the headlines.

Marshall's bill must still be passed by the Virginia state Senate. If that happens, Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell's office has said he will review the measure if it reaches his desk, but he has not committed to signing it.

Opponents of the legislation believe it could restrict access not only to abortions but to some forms of contraception, like those that prevent implantation of fertilized eggs. Democratic Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, who supports abortion rights, said the legislation represented an "overreach by the state."

"These decisions should be left to a woman and her physician, a medical professional," Filler-Corn said. "This is a slippery slope and eventually, the goal of the personhood movement is to ensure that birth control is illegal."

Marshall says his law does not directly challenge the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision affirming a woman's right to an abortion, although he acknowledged it is a step in that direction. …