- A Virginia bill would grant a fetus personhood to permit a pregnant driver to use the high-occupancy lane.
- The bill would require drivers to get their pregnancy “certified” by the Department of Transportation.
- It follows a similar case where a Texas woman fought a traffic ticket for driving while pregnant in the HOV.
A proposed bill in Virginia would allow a pregnant driver to use the carpool lane by designating the fetus as another passenger in the car — renewing the debate over fetal personhood.
The bill, filed by Republican Delegate Nicholas Freitas, would consider a pregnant person to be two (or more) people “provided that she has proof of pregnancy,” permitting them to drive in HOV lanes.
If the HOV lane, which typically permits two or more people, is monitored by a camera system then the pregnant person would have to make sure their pregnancy is certified “with the Department of Transportation,” according to House Bill 1894’s text.
“The bill requires the Department to establish a process whereby a pregnant woman can certify that she is pregnant and have such information linked to her toll collection device, commonly known as an E-ZPass,” the bill’s text reads, noting there would be “protections for such data.”
Freitas did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment on Sunday.
The proposed legislation follows a similar case in Texas, in which a pregnant woman named Brandy Bottone successfully challenged a ticket for driving in the HOV lane by herself, Insider previously reported. After Bottone’s story gained national attention, a Texas Republican filed a bill to allow pregnant drivers to use carpool lanes when driving by themselves, but the bill failed to gain traction in the state legislature.
Bottone did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Such bills are part of a Republican effort to grant a fetus “personhood” status and legal protections “making it harder to uphold abortion rights because you have essentially imbued a fetus with personhood,” Guttmacher Institute expert Elizabeth Nash told NBC News.
The fight over fetal personhood is far from over
In October, the US Supreme Court declined an appeal on the question of whether fetuses have constitutional rights, according to Reuters. The decision came months after the high court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had legalized abortion nationwide.
The movement to establish fetal personhood began in 1973 following the Roe decision, and US lawmakers were trying as early as 1983 to establish fetal personhood at the national level, according to ProPublica. When the legislation failed there, the GOP turned to state legislatures to shift laws, the outlet reported.
The concept of personhood centers on the idea that a person’s life begins at conception, and establishing a legal precedent to that effect could remove the existing exceptions to some abortion bans for instances of rape, incest, and the safety of the pregnant patient, according to Newsweek.
Critics of the strategy, some of whom come from within the anti-abortion faction, have suggested that personhood laws could have unintended but far-reaching consequences, including prosecution of those who have miscarriages or complications for those who use in vitro fertilization, Newsweek reported.
As of now, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, and Missouri have some kind of fetal personhood laws on the books, PBS and NPR-affiliate GPB News reported.