This State's Bill Grants Fetus the Right to Be HOV Passenger

Critics push back on Virginia legislation, saying it would strip abortion rights via 'personhood' concept
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2023 6:44 AM CST
This State's Bill Grants Fetus the Right to Be HOV Passenger
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Nature)

Pregnant but don't have a carpool companion? In Virginia, new legislation seeks to allow you to use the HOV lane anyway, counting your fetus as a second passenger. But reproductive rights advocates are wary, countering that Republicans are using the bill to try to push the concept of "personhood" in the state and further quash abortion rights, reports NBC News. HB 1894 considers that "a pregnant woman shall be considered two people for the purposes of determining occupancy in HOV and [high-occupancy toll] lanes," which don't allow you to drive in them unless you have at least one other passenger in the car with you.

Under the new legislation, a pregnant woman would be free to use the HOV lanes solo as long as she can prove she's actually pregnant on the spot if she's pulled over, or by registering her pregnancy via Virginia's E-ZPass system. Per WFTS, the bill also states that the info would only be used for HOV purposes—i.e., the data wouldn't be sold or otherwise made public—and it would be scrubbed from the system after the woman notified the state she was no longer pregnant.

Critics are pushing back: "Granting legal rights for fertilized eggs from the moment of conception would have sweeping and harmful consequences across the board," Tarina Keene, from the reproductive rights group REPRO Rising Virginia, tells NBC—and not only regarding abortion, but also stem cell research and in vitro fertilization, she adds. The outlet notes that a similar bill emerged in Texas last year via that state's Republican lawmakers but went nowhere. That bill was proposed after a pregnant Texas woman kept racking up tickets for driving in the HOV lane, claiming her fetus was her second passenger. The Virginia bill, sponsored by Republican Nick Freitas, is likely to meet the same fate due to that state's split Legislature. (More personhood legislation stories.)

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