Kaine Signs Tax Cut for Poor, Medical Rights for Sick Teens

Jay Cherrix, left, and his son, Starchild Abraham Cherrix, inspired
Jay Cherrix, left, and his son, Starchild Abraham Cherrix, inspired "Abraham's Law," a medical rights bill signed yesterday. (By Amy Collins -- Associated Press)

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007

RICHMOND, March 21 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine signed several bills into law Wednesday, including a measure that eliminates state income taxes for Virginia's poorest residents and another proposal that gives parents greater flexibility to experiment in treating a sick child.

Kaine (D) is racing to complete action on hundreds of pieces of legislation approved by the General Assembly this year. The governor has until midnight Monday to decide whether he wants to sign, veto or amend a bill.

Under a bill Kaine signed Wednesday, teenagers 14 or older and their parents now have the right to refuse medical treatments for ailments such as cancer. Teenagers and their parents can seek alternative treatments so long as they have considered all other medical options.

"This measure strikes the appropriate balance between the rights of parents and a mature child to make informed medical decisions," Kaine said. "This is significant for health freedom in Virginia."

Known as "Abraham's Law," the bill is a response to a controversy last summer surrounding Starchild Abraham Cherrix, 16, of Accomack County on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

Cherrix refused chemotherapy and wanted to treat lymphatic cancer with alternative medicines, including a trip to Mexico for supplements. But the Accomack County Department of Social Services, which argued Cherrix was risking his own life, asked a juvenile court judge to intervene even though he had the support of his parents. The judge agreed with the county and found Rose and Jay Cherrix guilty of medical neglect. The judge also ordered the parents to send their son to a hospital for chemotherapy.

"They were going to force Abraham into chemotherapy even though he had already gone through it and it didn't help him," said John G. Stepanovich, the parent's attorney who filed an appeal.

A circuit court overturned the ruling.

Stepanovich said Kaine and the General Assembly proved that "the system works."

"Parents of the commonwealth who in the future are battling their children's life-threatening illness won't have to battle the social services at the same time," he said.

Del. John J. Welch III (R-Virginia Beach), who sponsored the legislation, said, "Parents now have rights secured by the code of Virginia that many parents thought they previously had."

Kaine also signed several bills relating to the tax code. The biggest change means married couples with a combined income of less than $23,900 and individuals who earn less than $11,950 will be removed from state income tax rolls.


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