Morning Read: Va. Senator's "Gender Equity" Amendment - NBC4 Washington
First Read
Your first stop for politics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Morning Read: Va. Senator's "Gender Equity" Amendment

Controversy over proposed law to require ultrasound before abortions



    * In Virginia, the debate over abortion took an interesting turn Monday when the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. 

    Virginia Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax Co.) was among those who voted against the bill, saying it was an unnecessary expense and amounted to "emotional blackmail," the Times-Dispatch reported.

    In protest, Howell introduced an amendment to the ultrasound bill on Monday requiring men to undergo additional medical procedures before getting a prescription for erectile dysfunction - specifically, a digital rectal exam and a cardiac stress test.

    "I think we should just have a little gender equity here," Howell said.

    The Senate rejected the amendment in a 21-19 vote, but her stance has been making its way around the blogosphere.

    On Blue Virginia, a blogger wrote a post entitled “Hooray for Gender Equity”

     “I wish I could figure out exactly what strange obsession compels Republicans to feel they have to spend so much time talking about and legislating women's sexual anatomy and behavior. It's pretty creepy. Maybe Janet Howell has found the best weapon against that stuff. Turn it the other way and show just how absurd it is.”

    On the conservative blog Bearing Drift, a blogger wrote “Janet Howell Wants Government in Your Butt.”

    So an ultrasound — a perfectly healthy and non-invasive procedure to perform before killing a human being an abortion — is the equivalent of anally violating a grown man? Janet Howell lives in a very interesting world.”

    Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the State House Monday evening to rally against Governor Martin O'Malley's proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriages in Maryland.

    O'Malley is expected to testify before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Tuesday morning.

    The protestors, according to The Baltimore Sun, listened to ministers and pushed a traditional agenda, chanting “one man and one woman” over and over again.

    On the other side, hundreds of religious people rallied in favor of the bill yesterday in Frederick, telling legislators the time has come to legalize civil marriage for everyone. 

    Metro Weekly reports that state officials, including Attorney General Doug Gansler, were in attendance at the meeting. 

    The Baltimore Sun editorial board came out in favor of O’Malley’s bill yesterday, writing that the legislature has a chance to promote fairness and strengthen Md. families.

    “Those who make strengthening families a primary concern would do well to recognize that thousands of committed gay couples in the state are already raising children. Voting against same-sex marriage doesn't make them go away, it just makes them more vulnerable. Ultimately, the issue comes down to a matter of conscience as much as one of law and policy.” 

    In an op-ed in The Washington Examiner, Stella Morabito wrote that “conscience protection” is a key selling point for O’Malley as he tries to pass the bill. 

    “The biggest failure of the bill, however, is the absence of protection for the conscience of individuals.  Anyone who in a wedding related business in the state of Maryland will be fair game for a discrimination lawsuit if he or she declines services because of deeply-held religious convictions. This failing seems to reflect a major shift in the general understanding of conscience clauses. In the past they were intended to protect individuals from being coerced into performing acts that violated their moral convictions.  


    * D.C. closed Fiscal Year with a $240 million surplus. The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute has a post that clearly answers key questions about the District’s Annual Financial Report and what the surplus actually means.

    * The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will give local activist Frederick Butler permission Wednesday to start collecting the 45,000 necessary petition signatures to get recall efforts for both Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. Kwame Brown on the ballot, reports.

    Mayor Gray’s response to the Board of Elections:

    “I believe that it would be ill-advised to vote for a recall election-based upon the statement that has been submitted and given the cost entailed in holding a city wide special election and the progress the Gray administration is making in a number of areas critical to the future of the city.”

    The recall petitions will include Butler’s statements advocating for their removal of office and Gray’s and Brown’s responses to the recall efforts.

    * Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that a measure to repeal the District’s controversial Internet gambling plan has enough support to go before the Council, “setting up a high-stakes vote on whether the city government will be the first in the country to offer games like poker and blackjack online.”