Personhood USA co-founder Keith Mason (Pic via personhoodusa.com)

A bill written to outlaw abortion by granting legal rights to fertilized eggs passed the Virginia House yesterday, a move that is sure  to lend confidence to “fetal personhood” groups across the country — including Florida’s

The bill resembles one that made waves in Mississippi last year, gaining considerable support from members of the state Legislature but ultimately failing to garner enough votes to pass. Unlike the Mississippi amendment, however, the Virginia bill would attempt to change abortion rights through the state’s legal code.

The Virginia bill, which is sponsored by Republican Delegate Bob Marshall, would define the word “personhood” in the Code of Virginia as beginning at the moment of fertilization.

Personhood proponents say they only want to ban abortion, but critics argue that the bills would complicate the legality of stem cell research and in vitro fertilization procedures and could outlaw some types of birth control. In an attempt to mitigate some of those concerns, one Virginia Democrat attempted to attach an amendment that would declare that the bill could not outlaw any form of legal contraception. The House ultimately voted against considering that amendment, in a 64 to 34 vote.

In a press release sent out Monday, Virginia House Democrats argued that the bill is “an example of misplaced priorities.”

“House Democrats are focused on education, economic opportunity, and transportation while the GOP continues to push a narrow, divisive agenda,” said House Minority Leader David Toscano.

The Virginia measure will next advance to the state Senate.

The leader of Personhood Florida has told The Florida Independent that his group is aiming for ballot placement on the state’s 2014 ballot. The organization has already begun a two-year push to drum up support for its amendment.

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