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Va. Senate to debate 'personhood' bill this week

Monday - 2/20/2012, 4:32am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Much of the decades-old debate over abortion has focused on the question "When does life begin?"

Heated disagreement is expected this week as the Virginia State Senate debates HB 1, which would define a person as beginning at conception.

The bill would cloud when an abortion would be legal and possibly outlaw some forms of birth control, such as the morning-after pill.

The bill has already passed the overwhelmingly Republican House but faces a tougher battle in the state Senate where the chamber is equally split 20-20 between Democrats and Republicans.

"I'm intellectually, personally, emotionally angry and distraught over this," said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington. "Why we want to repeal the 20th century, I don't know."

Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun said the bill is designed to chip away at the Roe vs Wade decision that legalized abortions in 1973.

"The hope of the pro life movement is that it will eventually translate into some suppression of these things," Black said.

He said the legislation is not aimed at birth control and is similar to a law in Missouri which has already withstood a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Favola calls the bill a "very extreme agenda" that a group of people are trying to force on an entire state.

The Senate vote on the bill could come late in the week.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)