SB 924

Saslaw: "80 Out Of 81 Ain't Bad" Unless Your The Unborn

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) is known for his bluntness. Sometimes that's refreshing in politics. But there's a fine line between blunt and crude. Today, on Washington station WAMU-FM's The Politics Hour, he offered this braggadocio when asked about the abortion center regulation amendment to SB 924 that the Senate approved on a 21-20 vote, as reported by Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog:

"Let me just say this: Over the last decade, it's no secret. I happen to be pro-choice. I've been pretty much responsible for bottling up or killing 80 bills."

He noted that most of those anti-abortion bills have died in the Senate's Education and Health Committee, whose pro-abortion rights membership, he said, he'd helped "engineer."

"One finally got through through circuitous means," he said. "Eighty of 81 ain't a bad batting average."

Not bad at all, senator, unless you're one of the hundreds (even thousands) of unborn babies who've died because of your obstruction. On the other hand, he didn't try to fool anyone — no pretense of "safe, legal and rare," so many liberals try to effect to appease some voters as a sensible position. He gladly took credit for the out of proportion stacking of the Education and Health Committee, as well. But it was nice to see Ms. Helderman's equally frank, fair and accurate description of Senator Saslaw as "pro-abortion," a term we expound upon here as the true motivation of many who call themselves "pro-choice."

Speaking of stacking committees, he was equally blunt on redistricting, saying he expected to redraw district lines in an effort to elect more liberals. The interview also included a surprise caller that sparked real fireworks. It's worth a listen. You can find the audio here.

Abortion Center Safety Passes Senate On Lt. Governor Bolling’s Tie-Breaker Vote!

After a long and passionate Senate floor debate that spanned a few hours over two days, the Virginia Senate voted 20-20 this afternoon to direct the Department of Health to promulgate regulations for abortion centers. After a brief pause for the Senate clerk to announce the vote, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling cast his constitutionally authorized tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill. It now will go to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature. After more than two decades of hiding behind a veil of political secrecy, abortion centers in Virginia will face greater scrutiny and better health standards. It was the first time ever that such legislation has even reached the Senate floor, despite numerous bills passed by the House. Each year, including earlier this session, the Senate kills the legislation in committee. But all 18 Republicans held together and two brave pro-life Democrats, Senators Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), resisted pressure from their caucus' leadership.

While the session has gone according to script this year, with the House passing and the Senate Education and Health Committee killing pro-life legislation, a dramatic turn occurred only a few days ago, in last days of session. SB 924, patroned by Senator Ryan McDougle (R-4, Hanover), which directs the Board of Health to promulgate regulations for certain health care facilities, passed the Senate and went to the House of Delegates. Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) offered an amendment to add abortion centers. Liberals challenged its germaneness, but after consulting with his parliamentarian, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Stafford) ruled it in order and the House passed it overwhelmingly. That change required it to return to the Senate where the GOP caucus began to coalesce around the amendment. The vote was scheduled yesterday, but after a half-hour of debate it was passed by until today. Senate Democrat leaders pressured its two wayward colleagues, but at the outset of the tenor of today's 90-minute debate it was apparent there were no cracks in the coalition.

Unfortunately, opponents devoid of logic but full of less-than-genuine arguments, demagogued the issue. At one point Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Fairfax) mocked Senator Mark Obenshain's (R-26, Harrisonburg) recitation of federal court decisions upholding abortion center regulations, even though he was replying to her colleagues' calls for proof of legal precedent. It prompted this exchange. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) told his colleagues to "get a life!" if they thought the bill was about women's safety, ignoring his own colleagues' faux concerns for the constitution.

Senator John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke) repeatedly claimed the bill was unconstitutional with wild assertions and vague stretches of case law, all of which were refuted by Senator Obenshain, who cited federal appeals and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. One was Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which Senator Edwards said ruled such regulations illegal. Senator Obenshain replied that "standing up and saying so doesn’t make it so," and read from the court’s opinion which plainly disproved Senator Edwards' assertions.

Several liberal senators predicted horrors such as back alley abortions even though states such as South Carolina regulate abortion centers with no such reports and Virginia regulated abortion centers until 1983. They also claimed first-trimester abortions were among the "safest procedures" despite absolutely no corroborating evidence because there are no reporting requirements mandated in Virginia. Senator Dave Marsden (D-37, Fairfax) even compared the bill to the poll tax and efforts to keep minorities from voting in the Jim Crow era.

Another desperate aspect of the debate was the demand by several liberal Democrats that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issue an opinion, perhaps the first time they've wanted his advice. Of course, it was a tactic to delay and kill the bill. Senator Edwards sarcastically said the attorney general would love to defend the bill if it became law because of the other legal actions he’s pursued. But the fact was, and they knew it, he issued an opinion in August in support of the constitutionality of such regulations. He even accommodated senators with a letter composed during a Senate recess — which added to the longevity of the debate.

Opponents' arguments, so twisted, inevitably contradicted each other, with Senator Howell's unwitting admission that abortion is, in fact, used for contraception when she said the bill would take away one method of "determining the size of families."

This was a monumental vote and a historic day. The forces of life, after years of pursuit, finally won an incremental and commonsense victory. Thank you to all who contacted their senators on this important issue! We now look forward to working within the regulatory process to ensure the regulations by the Board of Health ensure abortion centers are safe for women who make the unfortunate choice of abortion.

BREAKING: Bolling Breaks 20-20 Tie! Abortion Centers To Be Regulated!

We'll have more later, but within the last 30 seconds, after about 90 minutes of debate, the Virginia Senate voted 20-20 on SB 924, as amended by the House, to direct the Board of Health to promulgate regulations for abortion centers. Lt. Governor Bill Bolling immediately cast his constitutional tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill as amended. It now will go to Governor Bob McDonnell who has promised to sign it.

BREAKING: Abortion Center Debate Produces Quote Of The Session!

The debate on SB 924, which, as amended, would mandate the Board of Health to regulate abortion centers, has spurred contentious debate on the Senate floor, and the chamber has passed the bill by temporarily. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw promised the bill and its House amendment would be voted on today. Now, the Senate is in recess for an unrelated reason as we await the vote. During the debate, an exchange between liberal Democrat Janet Howell and pro-life conservative Republican Mark Obenshain, produced this, after the latter answered a request to cite legal precedent regarding the constitutionality of the bill:

Senator Howell: Are you the Attorney General?

Senator Obenshain: You don’t need to be the Attorney General to read the constitution.

Senator Howell: Will you be the person defending the commonwealth in a lawsuit?

Senator Obenshain: No, I will not. Will you be the person suing the commonwealth?

The chamber fell silent while even neutral observers in a viewing room let out a collective whoaaa! Senator Howell pursued no further debate with Senator Obenshain.

Update: Senate Delays Historic Pro-Life Vote Until Thursday, Don't Delay Contacting Your Senator

It's never easy to negotiate a straight road through the General Assembly. This year, even as many issues long ago were decided, a stunning development has presented us a monumental last minute vote — but even that's been pushed back a day.  The Virginia Senate, after some debate today, put off until tomorrow a vote on the pro-life House amendment to SB 924. The bill, patroned by Senator Ryan McDougle (R-4, Mechanicsville), directs the Board of Health to create regulations regarding hospitals, nursing homes, and certified nursing facilities. However, Delegate Kathy Byron's (R-22, Lynchburgfloor amendment (read here) Monday tacked on abortion centers to the types of facilities to come under these regulations. Once the House of Delegates approved the amendment and then the bill, it moved back to the Senate which will have to approve or reject the amendment and the bill.

In effect, the new version of bill requires the Board of Health to create abortion center safety regulations — an initiative The Family Foundation has pushed for more than a decade. But pro-abortion lawmakers successfully negotiated a one-day delay in the vote, presumably to pressure two pro-life Democrats. The Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog reported today that Democrat Senators Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas) and Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) have committed to support the amendment. We're hopeful one more may come around as well. If the 18 Republican senators vote as a block, the addition of Senators Colgan and Puckett would result in a 20-20 tie, in which case Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling would cast the deciding vote. A pro-life advocate during his time in the legislature, Lieutenant Governor Bolling is likely to support the amendment.

During today's debate, opponents inaccurately portrayed the bill as forcing abortion centers to become hospitals with identical regulations. In fact, the bill as amended simply states that abortion centers are a type of hospital and that the Board of Health would have to promulgate regulations for this new classification of hospital, just as there are regulations for ambulatory surgery centers.   It is likely that tomorrow pro-abortion legislators will pull out every procedural move in the book in an attempt to derail this monumental win for the pro-life movement. Simply put, any attempt to monkey with the process (for example, attempting re-refer to committee or declaring the amendment not germane) will be seen as a deliberate attempt to prevent passage of the amendment and in effect the same as a vote against the amendment. After years of waiting for this day, pro-life advocates deserve an up or down vote on abortion center safety on the Senate floor.

Pressure and parliamentary tricks. That's what the pro-abortion movement has come down to. Will it be enough to overcome what is right and the will of the people?   Thank you to those who have already contacted their Senators to support  this critical amendment. For those of you who have not yet done so, we urge you to do so immediately and affect this historic and monumental opportunity. 

Contact your senator by e-mail.

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Historic Pro-Life Vote To Take Place On Senate Floor This Week!

For years pro-life Virginians have tried to convince the General Assembly that abortion centers need to be regulated for the sake of the safety of the women who unfortunately decide to end their pregnancies. The fact that the Virginia Senate, in particular, has refused to let regulation bills out of committee has proven that they aren't serious about the so-called "safe, legal and rare" policy. However today, on the House floor, Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) was successful in amending SB 924, a bill that requires the Board of Health to promulgate regulations containing minimum standards for certain medical facilities, to include abortion centers! A pro-abortion delegate challenged the germaneness of the amendment, but after consulting with his parliamentarian, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Stafford) ruled that the inclusion of abortion centers was germane because it was in the class of medical facilities enumerated in the bill and did not change the definition of the bill. After a brief debate, the amendment passed 63-34, then the bill itself passed 67-32

Because it is a Senate bill amended by the House, the full Senate must vote on it again in the next day or two! Finally, we will have a historic vote on regulating abortion centers in Virginia! Please contact your senator immediately and urge him or her to vote for the amended version of SB 924!   

Abortion center safety has received increased attention recently due to two unrelated events: a botched abortion originating with New Jersey-based Dr. Steven Brigham and a "horror shop" abortion center in Philadelphia. Pro-abortion advocates look at these examples and say, "Tell us of something in Virginia and then maybe we'll listen." The fact is that Dr. Brigham, who lost his license because he started late term abortions at his New Jersey centers and then transferred patients to Maryland to complete them, owns two abortion centers in Virginia and has no Virginia medical license. (He is not licensed in Maryland, either.)

Additionally, Dr. Brigham's two Virginia abortion center Web sites offer the following surgical abortion procedure:

Surgical abortion patients who are between 14 and 24 weeks pregnant will be referred to our Cheverly [MD] location after their first appointment for the completion of their procedure.

Abortions after 13 weeks in Virginia must be done in a hospital, not a clinic. It is not clear whether these two Virginia abortion centers are beginning illegal abortions or if a doctor at these two centers is practicing in Virginia without a license. We were able to locate Dr. Brigham's centers in Virginia  only because of the tragic situation in New Jersey.

Sadly, without the tragic medical emergency in New Jersey that led to his discovery, Virginians would never know about Dr. Brigham. Of course, we still don't know as much as we should because his abortion centers, and those of Planned Parenthood and every other abortionist, are neither inspected nor reviewed. Currently, the only way for the state to find out if there is a problem in an abortion center is if a woman who had an abortion files a complaint with the state — violating her right to privacy and opening herself up to publicity.

Virginia once responsibly regulated abortion centers with regulations upheld by the federal courts as constitutional. Years ago, we unilaterally suspended them. Now, after decades, the full Senate will have a historic vote as to whether the Board of Health must develop new ones. Please don't let this opportunity pass. Help us create history this session with a landmark Senate pro-life vote. Ask your senator now to vote for SB 924 as amended, as it will come up in the next day or two.

Contact your senator by e-mail.

Contact your senator by phone.

Learn who your senator is.