HOV Lane Access Isn't Worth Announcing Your Pregnancy to the State

A new bill would allow pregnant women to register their pregnancies in order to access the HOV lane.

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Pregnant woman wearing seat belt.
Pregnant woman wearing seat belt.
Image: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY (AP)

After a woman in Texas cheekily defended her right to drive in the high-occupancy vehicles lane due to her pregnancy, a lot of people thought, “hey yeah, why shouldn’t a pregnant woman count as two if life begins at conception?” Apparently, some of those people work in the Virginia General Assembly, and their solution is a little terrifying.

Republicans offered up House Bill 1894 in the General Assembly of Virginia to allow pregnant women to use the HOV lanes. These lanes are usually reserved for folks who carpool together or use ride share. Really, any car with more than one person in it counts.

Normally a cop would see a car with one pregnant driver inside and not instantly recognize that the person is pregnant and not just abusing the lane. What’s a cop to do? This bill provides that pregnant women in the HOV lane must keep proof of pregnancy on them at all times should they want to use the lanes and avoid getting pulled over. Or you know, just register your pregnancy with the state! From the Bill:

A. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any pregnant woman shall be considered two people for determining occupancy in high-occupancy vehicle lanes and HOT lanes, provided that (i) such lane is monitored by a photo-enforcement system and the pregnant person has notified the Department as provided in this section and has her registered toll collection device in the vehicle or (ii) the pregnant woman provides proof of pregnancy when stopped by a law-enforcement officer for a violation of this chapter.

B. The Department shall establish a process whereby any pregnant woman who is the registered user of a toll collection device can certify to the Department that she is pregnant and flag such toll collection device as being used by a pregnant woman. The Department shall coordinate with all operators of photo-enforcement systems and establish a process to recognize any such woman as two people for determining occupancy in high-occupancy vehicle lanes and HOT lanes. Such woman shall not be issued any citation or required to refute a citation issued via a photo-enforcement system, provided that she has properly registered with the Department pursuant to this subsection. 

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The bill describes citizens’ pregnancy information as off limits for solicitors and ad agencies, nor will it be open to the public. The pregnancy registration will, however, be accessible by the courts. This bill also requires the person to alert the state when they are no longer pregnant.

This is a terrible idea for any pregnant person to engage in, especially in a state hostile to abortion rights. Registering your pregnancy with the state could invite that state to interfere directly with your healthcare and even risk legal repercussions for uncontrollable bodily events. Any over-zealous prosecutors looking to punish people for making choices about their reproductive health or even who have experienced pregnancy losses will be hungry for such data.

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And if you don’t think that’s possible, here’s the case of a woman in Oklahoma currently serving five years on a manslaughter charge after she miscarried a non-viable fetus, according to USA Today. In 2019, a California woman was jailed for 16 months awaiting criminal charges after a stillbirth, NPR reports. And we’ve already explored the risk that license plate readers might pose to people seeking healthcare outside of their restrictive states.

Virginia’s abortion law did not change when the Supreme Court reversed Roe V. Wade over the summer. Residents can still obtain an abortion in the state up to 26 weeks of pregnancy, and beyond the second trimester if the life of the mother is under threatened. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, however, wants a 15-week ban on abortion. That demand now seems unlikely after Democrats likely flipped another seat in the chamber, drastically cutting the Republicans’ control, Yahoo News reports. Legislation for the 15-week ban was formerly introduced in the state legislature the same day as the HOV bill.