Home 2014 Races Barbara Comstock, “Personhood” Supporter

Barbara Comstock, “Personhood” Supporter

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Cross-posted at Daily Kos

It’s not enough to tell people that Barbara Comstock is too extreme to be the 10th District’s next US Representative. Better to cite some examples — of which few are as devastating as her support for giving fertilized eggs the legal status of people.

This past legislative session, Comstock voted for Delegate Bob Marshall’s fetal personhood bill — giving it crucial cover as one of only 5 Republican women in the House of Delegates. But this was not just another bill about which reasonable people might disagree — more like the legislative version of a hand grenade.

Waldo Jaquith describes the potential impact of this bill better than anyone:

Of the 30,826 laws in the Code of Virginia, 11,482 of them-37%-contain the word “person.” And there are 118 different things that “person” means in those 11,482 laws, because there are very specific things that they need to mean. Under Virginia law, a business cannot be guilty of murder[…]

It is through this lens that I was alarmed to read Del. Bob Marshall’s HB 1: […] “A bill to construe the word ‘person’ under Virginia law, including but not limited to § 8.01-50 of the Code of Virginia, to include unborn children.”

Wow. All 118 definitions of the word “person” would suddenly be amended to include “fetus.” This bill would serve as a wrecking ball against the Code of Virginia. Dozens and dozens of carefully constructed definitions would suddenly be rendered syntactically and legally ridiculous.

Regardless of your political beliefs, I hope you support candidates who do their job responsibly rather than threatening to cause serious damage to our legal system just to score ideological points.

What would such radical legislation do, if enacted?

– Elevate the legal status of zygotes above that of women. Note that the bill for which Comstock voted has ZERO exceptions for a woman’s life or health. Sorry, ladies, that little cluster of cells inside your uterus would be, legally speaking, more important than you. This bill would ban most forms of birth control — technically, any type that prevents implantation of an egg, rather than just fertilization. It therefore would likely increase unwanted pregnancies and drive women and girls to deadly back-alley abortions. Having Comstock be the front woman for this slap in the face to her gender only adds insult to injury.

– Fill up our prisons with hundreds if not thousands of innocent young women and doctors, convicted of murder for abortions, birth control use, perhaps even “suspicious” miscarriages. Besides the mass injustice of such a situation, think of the expense of not only building more prisons but incarcerating 19 year olds for 30 years to life.

– Ban stem-cell research, reducing the chance that we can save the lives of people with deadly diseases, and dragging Virginia’s universities and biomedical research establishments behind other states that lack such Medieval limitations.

– Make trial lawyers richer, and our judicial system more clogged, as it would open up a whole new class of litigants and flood the legal system with every manner of challenge, wreaking mass confusion in its wake. The questions to be resolved would be almost endless: Can zygotes vote? Can fetuses be sued? Are they required to be strapped into child safety seats? Can you take tax breaks for them, open up shell companies in their names, make campaign contributions in their behalf and thus exceed the legal limits? (You can see where the interests of the GOP’s two favorite groups, fetuses and millionaires, come together here.)

Interestingly, even some major anti-abortion leaders have criticized personhood legislation


– “Federal courts would almost surely declare the amendment unconstitutional,” said James Bopp Jr., general counsel of the National Right to Life Committee.”

– The anti-choice organization Eagle Forum calls “personhood” measures “a gimmick” and says that “nearly every reputable pro-life leader has criticized the approach of the personhood amendment.”

– Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life has said, “these ‘personhood’ proposals have the specific aim of challenging Roe, yet they are heading toward a brick wall.”

Fetal personhood may be too extreme for them — but it’s not too extreme for Barbara Comstock.

Luckily, there is a clear alternative in this election. Comstock’s Democratic opponent, John Foust, not only understands women’s issues, he is even married to an obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Marilyn Jerome, who says:

As an OBGYN, it is essential to me that any politician I vote for know that a politician’s place is not between a woman and her doctor. Lucky for me, I married a good one. I married a man who would never try to interfere with that relationship and make a woman’s choice for her.

No woman should be sent to prison for making a medical decision about her own body. If Barbara Comstock doesn’t recognize that, then she doesn’t deserve to be in public office.