GOP lawmaker forgets to fill in blanks on bill he copied from anti-abortion group

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Virginia state legislator John McGuire accidentally filed the '[NAME OF STATE] Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act' earlier this week.

John McGuire, a Republican member of Virginia's House of Delegates, filed an anti-abortion bill on Wednesday similar to those already being pushed in multiple states by the National Right to Life Committee.

The title of that proposed bill, however, was left partially blank: "[NAME OF STATE] Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act."

The bill appears to be a carbon copy of one drafted by the anti-choice NLRC, a legislation mill for state-based anti-abortion restrictions. The NLRC has pushed virtually identical language in several states across the country, and a dozen states have enacted these bans, though several have been blocked in the courts as unconstitutional.

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The error was first spotted by Virginia political strategist Ben Tribbett, who cited it as an example of the state's new GOP minority "phoning it in already." Wednesday marked the first day of the 2020 legislative session, the first under Democratic control since the 1999 elections.

Frustrated by a lack of federal legislation to prohibit abortions, the anti-abortion movement has been increasingly focused on carefully named and incremental state-based restrictions intended to make it all but impossible for women and gender minorities to access abortion. Those bills are typically distributed with the assumption that the state names will be filled in before introduction.

Despite its Orwellian name, McGuire's bill would prohibit the abortion method known as "dilation and evacuation," or D&E, except in cases of "serious health risk." According to the Guttmacher Institute, D&E is the most commonly used method used in the second trimester and has been documented as safe since the late 1970s. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says this approach "is evidence-based and medically preferred because it results in the fewest complications for women compared to alternative procedures."

McGuire did not respond to an inquiry about the legislation or its origin.

McGuire's bill is unlikely to become law under the new Democratic controlled state legislature. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the new Democratic majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate announced an 11-point "Virginia 2020" policy agenda on Tuesday that expressly promised to "[r]estore women’s reproductive rights" and to "[o]verturn laws that have injected politics into women’s healthcare."

McGuire, who was just reelected to a second two-year term in the House of Delegates in November, announced days after his victory that he would seek the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) in 2020. As a lawmaker, he voted against ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment last year, despite having listed himself as a co-sponsor in 2018.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.