This is a great story about a great victory. It's so good, it's difficult to come up with a headline because there are so many great choices: For instance, "Interim No More" or "Don't Know, Don't Ask." More about that later. Yesterday, the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee (HWI for G.A. regulars) heard debate on HB 894, a bill to license abortion facilities. (The word "clinic" typically is used, but pardon me if I find it disgusting to use the word "clinic," which is a place to get healthy, in conjunction with "abortion.") These facilities, despite the terribly invasive abortion procedure, are not regulated in Virginia. Blood donation centers are. Podiatry clinics are. Dental offices are. More to the point, outpatient surgical centers are, and if abortions aren't surgery. . . well, you see just one of the many hypocrisies of the abortion-on-demand crowd.
So Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg) introduced the bill and the usual suspects — Delegates Adam Ebbin (D-49, Arlington), David Englin (D-45, Alexandria), and Mark Sickles (D-43, Franconia) — feebly attempted to grill him.
But the state doesn't regulate dental offices Delegate Lohr; yes, but national professional organizations do, much like colleges are accredited, but there is no such oversight for abortionists; and on and on, one weak argument after another not making the case for why there is this massive regulatory inconsistency and exception for abortion facilities. In addition to Lohr, Delegates Cliff Athey (R-18, Front Royal) and Sam Nixon (R-27, Chesterfield) provided further rationale for the bill's necessity. As the issues were pretty well known and hashed out, Delegate Jeff Frederick (R-52, Woodbridge), moved to report the bill. (I love that about Frederick. He knows when enough's been said and when the votes are there.)
Then Sickles asked if there was anyone from the Health Department to speak to the bill. Up to the lectern stepped Dr. James Burns, interim commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health. He was asked what the administration's position on the bill was. He said it did not have one, to which Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), waiting to introduce a bill on HPV, sarcastically said aloud, "Amazing!" About half the air left the Sickles-Ebbin-Englin balloon. As if asking for more punishment, one of the liberals asked Dr. Burns if there are enough emergency complications reported in Virginia to warrant such a bill. Making clear he only was reporting objectively, and not offering a personal opinion, Dr. Burns said medical facilities for dental and eye surgery, for example, had reporting structures in place to monitor accurately the types of regulations required, if any. However, abortion facilities, he said, did not have those structures in place.
The bill was going to pass anyway, but if you wanted to see a first-rate liberal crash and burn, this was it. It kind of made the Planned Parenthood lobbyist, who testified ironically to the pristineness of abortion facilities and the horrors this bill would create, look more irrelevant than normal (which is saying a lot). The bill was reported by a 17-5 margin with four of the HWI's nine Democrats voting for it.
We don't know what Delegate Sickles' profession is, but attorneys always say don't ask the question if you don't know the answer. But for telling the truth in the face of bureaucratic pressure, Dr. Burns is our new hero. Interestingly — just coincidentally? — Governor Tim Kaine only hours later issued a news release naming his new, permanent health commissioner. We don't know if Dr. Burns was in the running for the job (Kaine selected Dr. Karen Remley, a Hampton Roads pediatrician) but we were heartened to know he was remaining in his current job as deputy commissioner for public health services. The word we received is that he is very popular there. He is, too, with us.