SB 330

McAuliffe Dealt Setback: Senate Upholds Conscience Protection!

Earlier today, the Democrat-controlled Senate defeated Governor Terry McAuliffe's amendment to SB 330, an amendment that would have seriously weakened conscience protections included in a bill providing for the licensing of genetic counselors. The vote was 23-17 with Democrat Senators Chuck Colgan, Phil Puckett and Chap Petersen joining all 20 Republicans in protecting the right of conscience. The Family Foundation would like to thank Senators Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield), Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), and Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg) who stood and spoke in opposition to the anti-conscience amendment. Special thanks goes to Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa) who articulated the legal liabilities of the amendment and to Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Franklin) who questioned the patron of the bill, Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), regarding the genesis of the amendment. Senator Stanley asked Senator Howell if she was comfortable with the initial language of her bill which passed the Senate 38-0. The considerably far-left senator responded that she was "perfectly comfortable" with the conscience clause language the way it was prior to the governor's amendment.

Continuing to prove how out of touch he is with mainstream Virginia, Governor McAuliffe showed today that he is also out of touch with even the most "progressive" leaders of his own party. He bowed to pressure from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and was reminded by the 23-17 vote that his radical agenda will not be approved even in the Senate simply because he has a "D" behind his name.

The passage of SB 330 without the governor's anti-conscience amendments is a great benchmark for conscience rights in Virginia. If genetic counselors can be protected from being forced to violate their conscience, it follows that all other professions should receive equal protection. Today's vote proves that the freedom of conscience is not a right-wing issue or even a Christian issue — it is about freedom of conscience for all.

We are also very appreciative of our colleagues at the Virginia Catholic Conference, which again worked so hard with us over the past several days on this amendment, as well as the representatives of the genetic counselors who were willing to work with us to protect the conscience rights of their clients. Thanks, also, to all of you who contacted your senators to vote no on this significant legislative action. It does make a difference and your voices are heard.

T-Mac Chili eating

Governor McAuliffe will have to chew on this legislative defeat.

Senate Votes Today On Conscience Protection

On Tuesday, bowing to pressure from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, Governor Terry McAuliffe amended SB 330, a genetic counseling bill, to weaken its excellent conscience protection language. Early today, the Senate will take up this amendment on the floor and vote on it.

Contact your senator now and ask him or her to vote NO on the governor's amendment to SB 330.

The story behind this amendment goes back a few months. This past summer, the lobbyists for the genetic counselors approached The Family Foundation with a draft of a bill to license genetic counselors in Virginia. We appreciated them coming to us prior to session to discern our impression of the bill and to see if we had any concerns. We decided to remain neutral on the topic of licensing genetic counselors, but we strongly encouraged the addition of a conscience clause to protect them from being forced to participate in counseling against their deeply held moral or religious beliefs.

The genetic counselors agreed to the conscience language and a bill was drafted that all parties agreed upon. In fact, the language was so universally-accepted, both the identical House and Senate versions passed unanimously in the evenly-divided Senate and with sweeping margins in the House.

Governor McAuliffe signed HB 612, patroned by Delegate Roxann Robinson (R-27, Chesterfield), with the strong conscience protection language and it became law. But before SB 330, patroned by Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), got to Governor McAuliffe's desk, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood woke up from their slumber, decided the conscience clause was unacceptable, and urged the governor to amend the language. Bowing to the pressure of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, he added an amendment to SB 330 which guts the conscience clause. This is particularly frustrating because the bills as drafted have the overwhelming support of both chambers, the genetic counselors didn't ask for the amendment and, not to mention, Governor McAuliffe already signed HB 612! The only holdup is the ACLU and Planned Parenthood who were late to the party.

 Please contact your senator now and urge a vote for conscience and reject the governor's amendment to SB 330).