The Virginia Senate decided yesterday to consider a bill that would put restrictions on abortions for minors after one legislator said members would be labeled "spineless wimps" if they sent it to a committee to die.
By a vote of 21 to 18, the Senate refused to send the bill to the Senate Education and Health Committee, where Chairman Stanley Walker (D-Norfolk) predicted it would die on a close vote.
State Del. Theodore V. Morrison Jr. (D-Newport News), the bill's sponsor, said later he was "somewhat encouraged" by the vote. But Morrison, who has said the bill has little meaning in its present form, added he was "just somewhat" encouraged by yesterday's action.
The bill, which will come before the Senate today, is what one senator calls a feeble "shadow" of the bill that Morrison wrote and that the House approved by a 3-to-1 margin. It now would require a parent's consent to an abortion for girls 17 and younger unless a physician not connected to an abortion clinic certified that the minor had received the "necessary information to make a mature, informed decision." Morrison said that provision makes a nearly "meaningless" change in the current law.
As approved by the House, the bill would have required a minor who did not have a parent's consent to an abortion to obtain the approval of a juvenile court judge.
Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, (D-Fairfax), one of the bill's opponents, said yesterday, "I don't think we have the votes to kill it" on the Senate floor. Sen. Edward M. Holland (D-Arlington) said the opponents only hope to "hold firm to the shadow" and ward off attempts to reinstate restrictive provisions in the bill.
Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax) said senators should be able to tell their constituents: "I stood up, I bit the bullet, I let the people of Virginia know where I stand" on the bill.