Jones: No fetus protection bill

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, January 15, 2009

Delegate Chris Jones (R-76th) will not reintroduce a feticide bill this year, saying it would be unlikely to pass in an unchanged Senate after failing two times in as many years.

“The Senate hasn’t changed,” Jones said in a phone interview Thursday. “I tried it two years in a row. I’m certain of what the fate would be.”

Jones introduced the bill in both the 2007 and 2008 General Assemblies. Both bills passed in the House of Representatives, but failed to do so in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The bills would have changed the wording of Virginia Code section 18.2-71 to make it a felony for a woman to produce her own miscarriage or abortion.

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Jones filed the two bills in response to the trial of Tammy Skinner, a then-22-year-old Suffolk woman who allegedly shot herself in the stomach in February 2006, killing her full-term, unborn daughter. Skinner then lied about the incident to police, saying she had been carjacked and the perpetrator shot her. After investigation, police charged Skinner with illegally producing an abortion.

However, the charge was dismissed, because a general district court judge said Virginia’s statute did not apply in her case. The current law reads, “Except as provided in other sections of this article, if any person administer to, or cause to be taken by a woman, any drug or other thing, or use means, with intent to destroy her unborn child, or to produce abortion or miscarriage, and thereby destroy such child, or produce such abortion or miscarriage, he shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.”

The judge interpreted the law to read that the pregnant woman herself was not prevented from producing the abortion or miscarriage. The case garnered national attention.

Critics of the bill on Virginia’s Senate floor argued that the bill would interfere with a woman’s right to have an abortion performed by a licensed doctor or surgeon, even though the code section dealing with lawful abortions specifically eliminates the provisions of 18.2-71.

Jones also said that each delegate is allowed to introduce a maximum of 15 bills this year – a new requirement – and he did not think he would be able to sponsor a feticide bill.

However, he did not rule out the possibility of reintroducing the bill sometime in the future.

“If I’m still around, and we get a differently configured Senate in several years, I would certainly consider reintroducing it.”