Editorial: Priorities in our state capital

Rappahannock’s representatives in Richmond – Delegate Michael Webert and State Senator Mark D. Obenshain – are back in the state capital this week to try to pass a budget. This reconvening of the General Assembly in a special session is necessary because the regular session, which officially adjourned earlier this month, failed in its duties to agree on a budget to keep state government functioning for the next two years.

Richmond is beginning to sound like Big Washington!

But the Republican-controlled General Assembly did find the time during its regular session to debate vigorously and consider actively 14 bills aimed at women’s reproductive choice and health. Fourteen, count ‘em!

Only one of the 14 bills finally passed: HB 462 requires every Virginia woman considering an abortion to have a mandatory (but medically unnecessary) ultrasound of the fetus. The law takes effect July 1, the same date that the state’s new biennial budget was supposed to start. HB 462’s provision that the state would force a doctor to insert an ultrasound probe into a woman’s vagina was deleted from the bill at the last minute, which Gov. Bob McDonnell then quickly signed into law.

The natural phenomenon that unwanted and unloved babies can grow into huge societal burdens on taxpayers and the state received little or no attention from Virginia’s legislators. Which is appropriate, given the fact that these same legislators couldn’t get their budgetary act together in the regular General Assembly session.

In medieval Europe, some of the greatest minds argued over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. In today’s Richmond, legislators debate the finer points of what constitutes “personhood.”

Scholasticism is the name for this medieval way of reasoning whose ultimate goal was to defend orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic world. When it comes to taxpayer dollars and state budgets, however, pragmatism might be a more fiducially responsible approach. And another name for pragmatism is common sense.

Walter Nicklin