Schwartz & Powell

Criminal Law - Reproductive Rights

by Steven D. Powell Attorney at Law

The State of Virginia recently hit an all time low in criminalizing a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land although you wouldn’t know it in the birthplace of American liberty, the Commonwealth of Virginia. The criminal law is used in Virginia to further a social, religious and political agenda at the expense of a woman’s reproductive rights.

The Governor of Virginia—the historical successor to Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson--just signed a bill criminalizing and impinging on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. It is against the criminal law in Virginia for a grown woman to obtain an abortion without first obtaining an ultrasound. The law as originally written required the ultrasound to be done by technological rape, that is, insertion of an ultrasound wand into the woman’s vagina and uterus. (Now the law dispenses with the penetrating ultrasound and requires an abdominal ultrasound.)  

The woman must also wait at least 24 hours after her ultrasound before any surgery. During that time she may contemplate the Anti-Choice propaganda her physician must advise her of. That’s cruel.

A health care provider who violates this law is subject to felony prosecution and imprisonment. That’s absurd.

Has the Commonwealth of Virginia gone nuts? The answer clearly is “yes.” This doesn’t surprise anybody. Virginia was the last state to abolish laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Virginia justified that law by saying the reproductive consequences of White and Black marriages would ruin society by creating ambiguous racial identity for the children of such marriages. Virginia argued that point before the United States Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia in 1967!

Virginia’s tourist bureau issues a cute bumper sticker that says “Virginia is for Lovers.” Because of their criminal law, it should read “Virginia is for Lovers Who Agree with Us that Abortion is Wrong.”

This law will not withstand constitutional scrutiny and Virginia’s politicians know this. In this election year, the legislature and Governor passed this law to prove exactly how “conservative” they are. I didn’t know it was part of being “conservative,” whatever that means, to authorize the State to attempt to regulate a woman’s federal constitutionally protected right to choose for herself her reproductive destiny.

This is clearly a dramatic and Orwellian abuse of the criminal law to control and humiliate women who find themselves in the unfortunate circumstances Virginia would criminalize.

I lived in Virginia when I was a child and an adult. I love Virginia. But I sure don’t like this most recent example in a long line of civil rights violations for which Virginia will always be shamed. It appears Virginia is for Haters, and that is heart breaking.

If you or a loved one find that someone is impinging on your reproductive rights or civil rights of any kind, call Steven D. Powell of Schwartz & Powell as I am particularly interested in civil liberty issues.   In the defense of your rights remember that Experience Matters.