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Michael Dennehy, along with his daughter Hope, 8, testify during a meeting at the Capitol Thursday in Richmond.
Steve Helber/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/18/2013
"I reject the notion that one human being can judge what is and isn't compatible with life," the former prosecutor said. He claimed that under Virginia's law, Helen Keller could have been aborted at taxpayer expense, a contention Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw vehemently rejected.
Witness testimony at times was wrenching.
Mike Dennehy, a father of 12, testified with his 8-year-old daughter Hope--one of eight adopted children, four of them born with afflictions that he said would have permitted their abortions. Hope was born without arms or legs.
"Miss Hope every day in her school gives the students and teachers around her her name, Hope. She's the light of our life, she's the light of the school she's in," Dennehy said.
Opponents of the bill--including three doctors--testified that Virginia's law doesn't apply to disabilities that supporters of the bill had cited.
"We are talking about fetuses without lungs, without brains, without vital organs compatible with life," said Dr. Wendy Klein. "We are talking about wanted pregnancies with tragic outcomes."
Alena Yarmosky of the abortion-rights advocate NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia spoke of her own bitter decision to terminate a pregnancy last January when she and her husband learned that what would have been their firstborn had severe spina bifida and no chance to survive after birth.
"I was an emotional wreck. I could not believe this was happening to us," Yarmosky said. "I can't imagine any woman going through this and being told she had no options because she had no funding."
"I would have wanted to die rather than to allow my baby to suffer," she said.
Northam and Sen. Barbara Favola failed to sway a Republican and advance legislation to repeal the law requiring ultrasonic scans of a woman's abdomen before abortions. Last January and February, the bill triggered angry protests by women's groups and others on Capitol Square while late-night television comedians lampooned Virginia and particularly Republicans over the measure.
Northam said the General Assembly had achieved the ultimate intrusion into private lives by taking discretion over the scan out of the hands of physicians and patients.