New Virginia bill would recognize a fetus as a passenger for vehicles in carpool lanes

A new Virginia bill would recognize a fetus as vehicle passenger when determining occupancy in carpool lanes. If passed, pregnant women and their unborn baby would count as two passengers when driving on Virginia’s expressways.  

Virginia’s HB 1894, sponsored by Republican Del. Nicholas Freitas, provides that a ‘pregnant woman shall be considered two people for the purposes of determining occupancy’ when driving in high occupancy toll lanes throughout Virginia. 

If passed, pregnant women would have to provide ‘proof of pregnancy’ to certify their pregnant status with the Transportation Department. This data would then be logged into a toll collection device, such as an E-Z Pass. 

Pro-choice activists worry that so-called ‘personhood’ laws – which seek to recognize the personhood of the unborn – will undermine abortion access efforts in the state. 

Last year, a Texas woman 34 weeks pregnant fought a $215 carpool violation ticket, claiming her baby was a passenger in the car. Texas penal code considers a fetus to be a person, but not a passenger in a vehicle.  

The bill is unlikely to pass given Virginia’s state legislature is currently split between the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democratic-held Senate.

Virginia’s General Assembly, which convened Wednesday, is expected to debate abortion regulations in the state for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June. 

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has said that he would support a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

On Wednesday, Virginia Republicans put forward a bill that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

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