Weekly GA Update: Major Victories and A Set Back

This week, the Virginia General Assembly has really gotten down to business, keeping The Family Foundation legislative staff extremely busy. I wanted to highlight some of the events of the week and encourage you to stay ready to respond to Action Alerts in the coming days. We are nearing “crossover,” which is February 14th, so next week the first round of committee work will have to be completed, meaning legislators will need to hear from you on a variety of issues. Earlier this week, the state Senate passed one of our highest priorities, legislation that requires an ultrasound prior to an abortion and an offer to the woman seeking an abortion to review the image. This major pro-life victory brings our Informed Consent law more in line with modern technology, ensuring a woman has as much information as possible and the doctor has accurate information about the unborn child. A House version of this legislation will be debated in subcommittee on Monday but is expected to pass the House as it has in years past.

Today, another one of our highest priorities passed the House of Delegates. Legislation protecting the rights of private adoption agencies to abide by their faith principles regarding family passed the House 71-28! The bill, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), doesn’t change who can adopt in Virginia, but simply ensures that the private agencies that do the bulk of the child placements and adoptions in Virginia and have done so for decades will be able to continue their extraordinary work for years to come. This morning, the Senate version of the bill, patroned by Senator Jeff McWaters (R-8, Virginia Beach), passed the Senate Rehab and Social Services committee 8-7. That bill will be debated and voted on in the full Senate early next week.

Also this week, a bill that begins breaking down the barriers to home school students trying out for public school sports crossed a major hurdle when the House Education committee passed the bill for the first time after several years. HB 947, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), faces strong opposition from the education establishment and should be voted on by the House early next week.

Unfortunately, another pro-life bill did not find success in the Senate Education and Health committee. A bill, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), that would have prohibited abortion from the point science deems unborn children feel pain, currently at 20 weeks, failed on a 7-7 vote with one Senator, Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake), abstaining. According to news accounts, emotional testimony from a woman who aborted her child who had been diagnosed with a disability may have swayed Senator Blevins. The good news is that the House companion to Senator Obenshain’s bill is still alive and is likely to pass the House, likely giving Ed and Health another chance to vote on the issue. We will work to educate members of the committee on the truth about the impact the bill would have in the hope that we can pass it later this session.

Legislation that would protect property rights through a constitutional amendment passed the Senate Privileges and Elections committee this week 13-2 and was scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor today but that has been postponed until Monday.

These are just a few of the issues we’ve been working on this session. The Family Foundation has taken a position on over 100 pieces of legislation this year, so our General Assembly staff has been putting in long hours educating legislators on many, many issues. Please be assured that your voice is being heard in the halls of the General Assembly Building and Capitol!