Senate Education and Health Committee

Senate Committee Kills Tebow Bill; House Fights For Life, Rule Of Law

On the same day a bold headline in the Richmond Times-Dispatch announced that the Virginia High School League had created a policy to allow "transgendered" students to play high school sports, the Senate Education and Health Committee killed legislation that would allow home school children access to those same sports — with the VHSL leading the opposition to the bill. VHSL, a pseudo-private organization that controls public high school sports in Virginia long has opposed equality for home school students. Hiding behind its own policies and definitions of "student enrollment" and "academic standards," it fights to keep students who legally home school and whose families pay taxes to support public schools from having an opportunity to try out for teams. It consistently implies that the academic record of home school students can't be trusted and that allowing them to participate would be "unfair" to public school students. The education establishment, from the VEA to the PTA to the School Boards Association, the Superintendents Association and more, fell into their annual lockstep of opposition with the VHSL in opposing the bill.

Testimony from several home school kids was poignant and compelling. Many talked about their participation in sports with their friends up to high school, where they are then blocked from continuing to play by an organization that is accountable to no one but itself.

Commonly called the "Tebow Bill," after Heisman Award winning quarterback Tim Tebow, who benefited from a similar law in Florida (and which 29 states have), HB 63 failed on a party line vote of 9-6. We are grateful to Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albermarle) for his impassioned advocacy for his bill and for the home school community. We have no doubt that as public support for this policy of fairness continues to grow (see VCU poll), Delegate Bell and home school athletes across Virginia will see success!

Also yesterday, the House of Delegates adopted budget amendments introduced by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Shenandoah) to both the current state budget and the next state budget that prohibits the attorney general from using taxpayer funds in his challenge to the state constitution. We thank all of you who contacted your Delegate since last night! Delegates have definitely heard your voice.

The House also rejected attempts by Democrats to strip the budget of several pro-life amendments, including prohibiting Medicaid funds for abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood, and prevent any governor's efforts to undermine abortion center health and safety standards. Pro-abortion advocates, as usual, used misleading arguments in trying to defeat the amendments.

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41, Springfield) alleged that the current abortion center safety standards have led to clinics closing, leaving "thousands of women" without access to "health care," such as cancer screenings. The problems with that argument are numerous. For example, one of the two that did so (NOVA Women's Healthcare in Fairfax), closed because of lease and financial issues, not because of the safety standards (see LifeSiteNews.com). If the $1 billion abortion industry really cared about women's health, it would spend some of its cash improving health and safety instead of $2 million getting its pick for governor elected.

But the misrepresentation by liberals didn't stop there. Topping the deception was Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Mount Vernon), who introduced a budget amendment that would have undermined conscience clause protections for faith-based child placement agencies, a law passed into law two years ago. He made the outrageous claim that the law allows faith-based adoption organizations to discriminate based on race! First, that is illegal under federal and state law to discriminate based on race and second, it is appalling to imply that faith-based organizations like those that serve families and orphans across Virginia are racist. It was an utterly insulting claim that should sicken every thinking Virginian.

Thankfully, the House didn't listen to Delegate Surovell (it usually doesn't) and overwhelmingly rejected his discriminatory amendment.

 

"Close The Window, Pull Down The Shade"

Earlier today, the Virginia Senate voted to pass SB 617, a bill to repeal the 2012 ultrasound update to the abortion informed consent law. The version of the story you'll probably hear is simply that the bill passed on a 20-20 vote with Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam breaking the tie in favor of the bill. What really happened though involves multiple votes, a win and then a loss and then another loss, procedural gymnastics, mistakes and tears. But worst of all, the silencing of one senator's conscience by the strong arm of his caucus. Let me back up though and tell you the whole story. Even before SB 617 passed out of the Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday, The Family Foundation met with lawmakers, lining up votes in favor of life and against SB 617. As today approached, we were cautiously optimistic that we had the necessary votes to defeat SB 617.

When the bill came up on the floor of the Senate, Senator Mamie Locke (D-2, Hampton) urged senators to vote on the side of John Stewart and Rachel Maddow and repeal this "shameful" law. Senator Locke quoted Family Foundation testimony given in committee stating that an ultrasound is a powerful "window into the womb" and referencing that testimony, she urged the Senate to "close the window, pull down the shade."

In other words: Do not, under any circumstance, show a woman a picture of the life she is carrying. Make no mistake — despite the opponent's rhetoric to the contrary — this bill is about hiding critical information from women.

After much debate, the vote was called and the bill failed, 18-22. The vote was party-line with the exception of Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) who voted in favor of the repeal and Senators Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Toddy Puller (D-36, Mount Vernon) who voted against the repeal. This vote line up struck us as odd because Senator Puller has never (in our recollection) voted pro-life. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she made a motion to reconsider the vote by which SB 617 failed to pass (this is a fairly common procedure when someone accidentally votes the wrong way). The bill's passage was reconsidered and the vote sudenly was 20-20 (Senators Colgan and Puller switched) and  Lieutenant Governor Northam broke the tie in favor of the repeal.

Senator Colgan confirmed with media (see Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) and pro-life lobbyists alike that his vote switch was entirely accidental. He even filed a "yellow slip" in which the official record reflects that he intended to vote no (but that cannot change the outcome of a vote).

Because of Senate Rule 48a, a bill can only be reconsidered once. Therefore, Senator Colgan's mistake would stand unless unanimous consent to temporarily suspend the rule was given by the entire chamber to allow Senator Colgan to change his vote. Proving his sincerity, a very emotional Senator Colgan petitioned his Democrat caucus colleagues to give him unanimous consent to vote his conscience and right his incorrect vote. Senator Watkins, who was on the prevailing side, as required, made the motion to reconsider the vote, but it failed 37-1. The sacrificial lamb for the caucus, Senator Locke, voted no. Clearly, among Senate Democrat leaders, orthodoxy to the abortion industry took precedent over the conscience of even one of their own members. Senator Colgan was not allowed to vote his conscience.

But Senate Republicans were determined to allow Senator Colgan his voice. The next bill up for debate was a bill dear to the hearts of the Democrat caucus — a bill to increase the minimum wage. However, the bill needed unanimous consent for it to be moved to "third read" and properly before the Senate for a vote on final passage (a common procedure). Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg) took to the floor to make the point that he could vote against the motion requiring unanimous consent and thus defeat the bill singlehandedly. Senator Norment impressed upon the Democratic caucus the inappropriateness of their stifling the conscience of Senator Colgan and reminded them that if the Republican caucus wanted to retaliate, that they had the perfect opportunity by singlehandedly defeating the minimum wage bill. Taking the high road, Senator Norment made his point and then encouraged the Republican caucus to be statesmen and not vote in a retaliatory fashion. However, the point was clear — the Democratic caucus had played dirty today and their shameful actions would not be ignored.

SB 617 will probably be heard next in the House Courts of Justice Committee where it will likely meet its demise (the same fate as a similar House bill, HB 1056). Senate Democrats are already claiming the "win" on the ultrasound repeal bill's Senate passage, conveniently ignoring that there were more members of the Senate today who opposed the ultrasound bill than supported it. It was only by mistake that it passed. Words cannot express the emotional roller coaster of today and the extreme disappointment felt when Senator Colgan was not allowed to vote his conscience. Please thank the 19 Republican Senators, Senator Puckett, and yes, Senator Colgan, for their principled stand for life.

On a positive note, SB 618, a bill to force taxpayers to subsidize abortions in Virginia's federally-mandated health exchange, failed to pass the Senate on a vote of 18-22 (Senators Colgan and Puckett joined the Senate Republican caucus to defeat the bill).

"Tebow Bill" Fails In Senate Education And Health Committee

The Senate Education and Health Committee this morning voted 7-8 (see vote) to defeat HB 947, a bill patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), which would have removed a significant barrier preventing home school students from trying out for public school sports teams. Senator Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake) joined the seven Democrats on the committee in opposition to the bill. The bill, which became known in the media as the "Tebow bill," was a top legislative priority for The Family Foundation. More than half the states in the nation have some type of measure that provides opportunities to home school students to participate in public school sports, but at this point Virginia will not join that league.

Delegate Bell eloquently presented the bill, anticipating opponents' arguments and masterfully debunking them. He explained that homeschoolers were not looking for a guaranteed spot on the team, but rather the ability to tryout. They were not looking to school shop, but rather tryout for their local high school team. They were not looking to participate for free, but rather pay any expenses the coach deemed appropriate. Additionally, the bill included the right for localities to add requirements of their own as well as a four year sunset. Nothing in the bill was an earthshaking change.

Opponents claimed homeschoolers want it both ways and that they know the rules when they make their choice. But Senator Jeff McWaters (R-8, Virginia Beach) countered that some students are caught in a trap of staying in public school just to play sports when their educational needs are better served in a home school environment.

After his presentation, numerous homeschoolers testified to their own academic prowess and athletic ability. One boy spoke of his participation in rowing. He rows with his team at many regattas, but is barred from rowing with his teammates when VHSL facilitates the competition. He expressed his frustration with his "second class citizenship." A public school student from Godwin High School in Henrico County, who plays on the junior varsity basketball team, told committee members that there was a shortage of students interested in playing girls basketball, so she and her teammates had to recruit players. She said that homeschooler participation would be a welcomed addition.

However, the  educrat establishment (Virginia Education Association, Virginia High School League, Virginia School Board Association, Virginia Superintendents Association, the Parent Teacher Association, etc.) turned out in full force to oppose the bill. Perhaps the most enlightening comment came from the PTA. Its lobbyist stated that 98.4 percent of high schoolers are public school students, which would mean 1.6 percent of students are either in private school or homeschooled. While that number seems a bit inflated, if so, it's ironic that so much panic has ensued from the public education lobby over a mere 1.6 percent of students!

The good news is that this is the farthest in the legislative process that this bill has traveled. For the first time, the bill passed out of the House of Delegates and made it to the Senate. We must continue to press forward, educating others on the fairness and importance of this legislation. The children of families who pay taxes that support the local public schools and are part of our communities, yet continue to be denied the ability to try out for an activity that they are funding for the simple reason that they are homeschooled. This discriminatory practice must end. Just as we said with school choice, the day will come when homeschool kids are treated fairly and allowed to try out for sports teams!

Education Establishment Opposes Bill That Notifies Parents Of Child's Disciplinary Problems: Full Senate To Vote This Week!

Legislation that would require schools to inform parents when their child is likely to face serious disciplinary action has passed the House of Delegates 98-0 and Thursday survived the Senate Education and Health Committee on an 8-7 vote. However, the education establishment is ramping up its effort to defeat this simple attempt at improving parental involvement.

Please contact your senator and urge them to support HB 1548!

The bill, patroned by Delegate Kaye Kory (D-38, Fairfax), simply would require schools to notify parents if their child violates a school policy or misses school and that action "is likely" to lead to the child's suspension from school. The hope is that the earlier parents are involved, the better; and perhaps suspension or more serious consequence can be avoided.

Unfortunately, the Virginia School Boards Association and other educrats oppose the bill because it would be "too burdensome” on schools. One would think schools want to have parental involvement as soon as possible to avoid escalating discipline problems and, as mom used to say, "nip it in the bud" before it becomes a serious problem.

We'd say their opposition is incredible (literally, without credibility), not to mention the conventional meaning of the word (i.e., shocking), but nothing the education establishment does to block reform surprises us and never will. But this just might be (as in a very close vote) one common sense reform that escapes the educrats' grip. The bill should be voted on by the full Senate as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Contact your senator by e-mail.

Contact your senator by phone.

Learn who your senator is.

Another Black Thursday? Life Bills in Senate Education And Health Committee Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning in Senate Room B beginning at 8:30, the Senate Education  and Health Committee will vote on three remaining life bills. Not known for its dedication to the sanctity of life, thus the moniker Committee of Death, makes Thursday's battle is an uphill climb. In fact, it typically waits until the last committee meeting of session each year to kill House pro-life bills, i.e., "Black Thursday." However, despite its reputation, it's important that each of the 15 senators on this committee hear from Virginia citizens who value life. Click here to get committee members' contact information and urge them to support HB2147, HB1428, and HB1440 Here is a short description of the bills the committee will vote on:   Abortion Funding Opt-Out for ObamaCare ObamaCare puts states in charge (see ObamaCare Lies) of their own health insurance exchanges for individuals and small businesses. If enacted today, Virginia potentially could include in its exchange health insurance plans that cover elective abortion. Pro-family citizens opposed to abortion would be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life. HB2147, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge) is a bill that would prevent insurance plans in the Virginia health insurance exchange from providing abortion coverage. Five states have taken this step and several more are considering doing so, while Maryland and Pennsylvania will allow abortion coverage. This bill passed the House 60-36-2, but the Senate version died earlier this session in this committee 10-5.   Abortion Center Safety HB1428, patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20, Augusta), requires the regulation of abortion centers. This bill has only three simple conditions: an annual inspection, a requirement of life saving equipment on premises, and licensure by a state regulatory agency. Abortion center safety has received increased attention recently due to two unrelated events: a botched abortion originating in New Jersey and a "horror shop" abortion center in Philadelphia. Virginians must demand a higher level of professionalism and medical aptitude from abortion providers and facilities. This bill passed the House 66-33.   Wrongful Death HB1440, patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) is a bill that would provide protection (civil recourse) for the unborn in cases where they lose their life due to the negligence of another. While Virginia's Code does include a fetal homicide law, the same unborn life, taken without intention or premeditation, elicits no civil penalty. Improving our civil law to recognize fetal manslaughter is essential. An unborn life is not only of value when it is wanted by the mother or when it is intentionally killed. This bill passed 62-36-1 in the House, but the Senate version died 10-5 earlier this session in this committee.

Senate Kills Life Bills, Passes Threats To Family

If the past two days aren't evidence enough that the Virginia Senate must change, we honestly don't know what is. In a 48-hour period since Wednesday, the Senate, where Democrats hold a 22-18 majority, has passed several bills that undermine the values of Virginia while defeating common sense measures that would reduce the number of abortions and advance a culture of life. On Wednesday, it passed legislation adding sexual orientation to state government's non-discrimination law (SB 747), a bill that gives state government agencies the ability to provide domestic partner benefits (SB 1122), and a proposal that is an attack on Virginia's abstinence centered family life education policy (SB 967).

In yesterday's Senate Education and Health Committee, five pro-life bills were defeated, including legislation that would have provided women seeking an abortion an opportunity to view an ultrasound (SB 1435); created wrongful death protections for the unborn (SB 1207 and SB 1378); and criminalized the act of coercing someone to have an abortion (SB 1217). The committee also rejected a bill that would prohibit health insurance companies that provide elective abortion coverage from participating in the state-run exchanges required by President Obama's federal health insurance scheme (SB 1202).

As in past years, the Senate has proven to be a killing field for pro-family, pro-life legislation, as well as the source of bills that undermine Virginia's values. The question now becomes, are pro-family Virginians finally tired of this? If so, this November all 40 members of the Senate face re-election. Let's face it — having the truth and the facts on our side, having a professional team of advocates to influence legislators, having a grassroots network across Virginia simply isn't enough. We have to change the people who sit in that chamber.

This year is our opportunity to break through this barrier and change the future of Virginia. We need to add more conservative voices to the Senate. When it had a Republican majority in the past the outcome wasn't much better. We need principled conservatives in office. The Family Foundation and The Family Foundation Action will do everything possible to ensure that Virginians know exactly what the stakes are — and which candidates stand with us and which stand against us — as the elections approach. Please click here to learn more about our Ignite Campaign and how you can help.

Please also know that there are several members of the Senate (15) that voted with The Family Foundation on every one of the bills. We thank them for their stand on principle. We especially thank those Senators who carried pro-life legislation this year, including Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), Ralph Smith (R-22, Botetourt) and Bill Stanley (R-19, Chatham).

Anti-Abstinence Education Bill Reported To Full Senate

The Senate Education and Health Committee yesterday reported to the floor SB 967, legislation cleverly designed by Planned Parenthood that attacks abstinence centered education programs. The vote was 11-4 with Republican Senator Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk) voting with the committee's 10 Democrats. It will be voted on by the full Senate early next week. The bill's patron is

Please contact your Senator and urge him or her to vote NO on SB 967.

The patron of this annual assault by the abortion industry on abstinence education is Senator Ralph Northam (D-6, Norfolk). For years Planned Parenthood has sought to advance legislation that would require sex education curriculum to be, in their words, "medically accurate."  Of course, it's difficult to argue against such a concept because all of us want our children to be given accurate information in school (if we allow the state to educate them about sex). Legislators that vote against the bill could be criticized by abortion advocates as being against "medically accurate" information, when nothing could be further from the truth.   Planned Parenthood and its ally, the National Abortion Rights Action League, (see Liveaction Blog) have made it their national agenda to stop abstinence education and they consistently assail abstinence programs as being medically inaccurate. Unfortunately, even the medical community differs on what is accurate and Senator Northam's bill would force the Department of Education and local schools to make the decision about what is correct. (Of course, we're sure Planned Parenthood and NARAL will joyfully help them make these decisions).   Senator Northam's bill would also change the long standing policy that allows Virginia localities to make their own decisions on whether or not to offer Family Life Education, effectively eliminating parental involvement in the decision making on whether a school district offers FLE.      According to polls, the vast majority of parents want their children to be taught abstinence. In addition, recent studies (published in peer reviewed medical journals) indicate that abstinence centered programs are effective. All the more reason to contact your senator.

Abortion Industry Opposes Safety, Loses Case It Brought Against Its Own Standards

Last week, in a victory for women's rights, abortion center regulations that were passed into law more than a decade ago finally went into effect in Arizona when a court there ruled the law constitutional (see Americans United for Life blog). It took that long because of an irony only the abortion industry could engineer: Pro-abortion groups sued Arizona to stop the law — even though the language in the law used Planned Parenthood's and the National Abortion Federation's own suggested safety regulations! The same people who claimed they had standards of care didn't want to be held accountable to their very own standards! For several years The Family Foundation has advocated for common sense standards of care for women who go to abortion centers in Virginia. These facilities essentially are unregulated, viewed as doctor's offices by state regulators, instead of as the outpatient surgery centers they are.

Of course, the abortion industry, led by the $1 billion behemoth Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU have  fought desperately against even the simplest of regulations, such as licensing and inspections of abortion centers, and a requirement to have resuscitation equipment on premises.

In recent years, opponents to safety have championed the so-called NAF standards as proof that no state regulations are needed. A thorough review of NAF's "standards," however, reveals that they are even less protective than the one requirement we do have in Virginia — that a doctor must perform the abortion procedure. Incredibly, NAF would allow nurses to perform this invasive surgery. (With fewer doctors willing to perform abortions, the industry is getting desperate.)

Arizona's new regulations include a proposal that The Family Foundation  also has supported, that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at an accredited, local hospital. Decent medical care requires that a doctor performing a surgery should have some responsibility for follow up care should something go wrong. This is the very least we can do to ensure women’s health. Again, this proposal has not seen support in the General Assembly.

The Arizona regulations were instituted after a woman died at an abortion center due to substandard care — the doctor involved was convicted of manslaughter in the case! Sadly, the death of a woman in Virginia a few years ago resulted in no outrage from women's advocates in the General Assembly. In fact, it met with a shrug and "no" votes against better standards. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) shouted "That [death] has been beaten to death here" during debate over abortion center safety in one Senate Education and Health Committee meeting.

However, there may be hope in the future, given a recent legal opinion issued by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The Family Foundation once again will support abortion center safety standards in the upcoming 2011 General Assembly session. We owe it to the women of Virginia.

After Years Of Roadblocks, Are The Days Over For Unregulated Abortion Centers In Virginia?

As we noted yesterday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion Friday that clearly explains the legal basis on which the Commonwealth of Virginia can regulate abortion centers absent legislation by the General Assembly. While laws are more lasting, his advisory opinion —sought by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Roanoke) and Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) —  means that abortion centers operating in Virginia can be regulated by the executive branch through the state's normal regulatory process. Providing safety standards for Virginia's abortion centers have been a legislative priority for The Family Foundation for many years. Until the mid-1980s, abortion centers in Virginia were regulated. Unfortunately, the administration of then-Governor Chuck Robb repealed those regulations due to constitutional concerns. Since that time, however, as the attorney general's opinion notes, federal appeals courts have ruled that such regulations are constitutional. Yet, in Virginia, abortion centers continue to be regarded by the state as doctors' offices, which require no emergency equipment for resuscitation or hemorrhage, despite the fact that abortion is a major invasive surgical procedure. 

The Family Foundation has worked for years in the General Assembly for common sense legislation to improve safety standards in abortion centers to equal those required for ambulatory (outpatient) surgery centers. Of course, the abortion industry in Virginia — Planned Parenthood and NARAL — fight with all their political muscle against these safety standards for women in their abortion centers. Each year its allies on the Committee of Death (Senate Education and Health Committee) reject simple requirements such as an annual inspection and having a defibrillator on site.

They argue that the abortion procedure is safe, despite the fact that the state doesn't have any reporting requirements for complications due to abortion (also fought against by the abortion industry), so there is no way to really know. They also argue that abortion centers shouldn't be "singled out" for regulation.

What they don't say is that other outpatient surgery businesses are self-regulated through respected, national accreditation organizations that require significant safety measures for their seal of approval. No such respected accreditation group exists for abortionists.

The Attorney General's opinion gives Governor Bob McDonnell's administration the opportunity to create necessary regulations for abortion centers without approval from the General Assembly. Since state agencies such as the Board of Health already have the power to regulate medical facilities this is not a new policy or a policy change that should require legislation. Previous governors simply have not acted on this ability. This opinion now clears the legal path to such needed action.

Cuccinelli: Virginia Has Legal Authority To Regulate Abortion Centers

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an official advisory opinion Friday that states the Commonwealth of Virginia has the legal authority to regulate abortion centers. The opinion was in response to a formal inquiries by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Botetourt) and Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) asking the attorney general for a legal opinion as to whether Virginia has the administrative authority to regulate facilities and providers in which and who perform first trimester abortions. The answer from the attorney general is yes, provided they meet the criteria set forth in U.S. Supreme Court precedent. He cited previous Virginia regulations and the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' upholding of abortion center regulations in other states.

For years, the Senate Education and Health Committee has killed common sense legislation, passed by large bipatisan House majorities, regulating abortion centers in a manner consistent with other medical facilities. The "Committee of Death" accepts pro-abortion claims that such regulations are "unconstitutional." But in his statement accompanying the release of the opinion, Senator Smith said, "This opinion clarifies any legal questions on the issue and sets the stage for regulating abortion clinics like other medical facilities."

In other words, even if the General Assembly does not act the executive branch may, on its own initiative, regulate abortion centers just as it does other medical facilities (of course, regulations may be changed by each administration, whereas laws are more lasting). Here are some of the more salient points from the opinion (click here for entire opinion, including footnotes): 

Medical facilities that provide abortion services in addition to many other services across a variety of disciplines clearly are subject to regulation by the Board. I note, however, that although the Board classifies "abortion clinics" as outpatient hospitals, neither the Regulations nor the Code define the term. Moreover, unlike later abortions, first-trimester abortions are not required to be performed in licensed hospitals. Health centers limiting their practice to specializing in reproductive services therefore often characterize themselves as "physicians' offices," whereby they are exempted from the Board's licensure requirements. Nonetheless, the Board has broad authority to adopt regulations as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of Title 32.1, and this regulatory authority includes defining an "abortion clinic," investigating the assertion by a facility that it constitutes physician's office, and regulating facilities beyond licensure.

Irrespective of the Board of Health's ability to regulate facilities, the Board of Medicine is vested with authority to regulate the practice of medicine, which includes providing guidelines for certain procedures and the ability to license, investigate, and discipline physicians, including those who perform abortions. The BOM's Regulations Governing the Practice of Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Podiatry and Chiropractic sets forth, for example, requirements for the proper administration of general anesthesia in non-hospital settings, a procedure that may be necessary depending on the abortion method employed. ...

In addition to applying regulations governing medical facilities and health care providers in general, the relevant agencies are authorized to impose regulations particular to abortion services. The General Assembly has afforded certain agencies broad authority to regulate in the area of health and has permitted them to classify facilities, procedures and personnel as they deem necessary and to promulgate regulations accordingly. ... The potential complications of abortion procedures include hemorrhage, cervical laceration, uterine perforation, injury to the bowels or bladder and pulmonary complications. Furthermore, these complications "must be immediately and adequately treated." Regulatory boards may distinguish between abortion and other procedures because, "'abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures," and "for the purpose of regulation, abortion services are rationally distinct from other routine medical services if for no other reason than the particular gravitas of the moral, psychological, and familial aspects of the abortion decision."

Based on Virginia's police power to protect its citizen's health and welfare, the broad authority granted to the regulatory boards, and the extensive statutory and regulatory scheme currently applicable to physicians performing abortions and the facilities in which such services are available, I conclude that the Commonwealth, by the Virginia Board of Health, the Virginia Board of Medicine, or any other proper agency, has the authority to continue to promulgate regulations affecting the performance of first trimester abortions. ... 

Virginia previously exercised this authority, when on November 12, 1981, the Virginia Board of Health adopted "Rules and Regulations for . . . Licensure of Outpatient Hospitals, Performing Abortions Only" . ... the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit provides clear guidance with respect to what constitutes permissible regulation and what does not.

McDonnell's First 100 Days: The View From The Family Foundation

The Washington Post ran a recent Sunday edition story that suggested a chasm has developed between Governor Bob McDonnell and social conservatives. According to the article, some have become disheartened and feel the governor has let them down while others are more willing to be patient and give the governor time. So, what does The Family Foundation think of the governor's first 100 plus days? Understanding the context of events is always key to accurate analysis. So let’s remember that for the past eight years social conservatives in Virginia have been isolated from the governor's office. Both previous governors were at times openly hostile to traditional values issues. Governor Mark Warner gave $25,000 to the Commonwealth Coalition, the organization that opposed the Marriage Amendment, and regularly opposed our agenda (hear in his own words what he thinks of Christian conservatives). Governor Tim Kaine openly campaigned against the Marriage Amendment and also opposed much of our agenda (though he did work with us on several marriage initiatives). Add to that the fact that in November 2008 Virginians voted for Barack Obama for president, and political pundits (as usual) proclaimed social conservatism dead. Any candidate who wanted to win had to disavow  caring about the unborn and marriage and stick to one thing and one thing only — money (well, the economy).

Enter Bob McDonnell. A long time friend of social conservatives and leader on many of our issues, values voters were energized by a candidate they could call "one of us." While campaigning, candidate McDonnell steered clear of social issues unless asked, focusing on exactly what the "experts" said he had to focus on — the economy. Some social conservatives expressed frustration that McDonnell wasn't more vocal on abortion and other social conservative causes, but many understood that the political climate was such that the majority of voters were most concerned about their personal well-being with an economy in recession and a federal government spending us into oblivion.

On Election Day, social conservatives voted for McDonnell in droves. Exit polling showed that nearly half of McDonnell's voters were self-identified evangelicals. Clearly, they believed that Bob McDonnell was going to be their guy in the Governor's Mansion. As with any constituency, those votes did not come without expectations, and they were high expectations at that.

Once sworn in, he went to work on his campaign promise to bring Virginians a balanced budget without higher taxes, and job development. Most agree that the governor has largely fulfilled those promises — though some are concerned with increased fees in the budget. During his administration's first General Assembly session the governor was relatively quiet on social issues, though his administration did vocally support abortion center safety legislation in the Senate Education and Health Committee. He also renewed an executive order concerning non-discrimination in state hiring practices, but did not include "sexual orientation" as had been done by the two previous governors (though Governor Warner did it in the last month of his administration).

Of course, things didn't go perfectly for the new administration. Social conservatives were particularly disappointed that he chose to issue an "executive directive" concerning hiring practices that included "sexual orientation," and we explained those concerns to him both publically and privately. He did, however, sign the Health Care Freedom Act, the first legislation of its kind in the nation that hopefully will protect Virginians from being forced by the federal government to purchase health insurance. He also protected Virginians from being forced to pay for low-income elective abortions (a major pro-life victory) and ensured that Planned Parenthood can't use the money they make off of their new license plate to perform abortions.

Now, we are just passed the first four months of his four-year term, and some conservatives are expressing disappointment, even outrage, with the governor's actions thus far. Interestingly, I was interviewed for the Post article long before its publication date, and at the time, we were encouraging the governor's office to take a more pro-active approach on social conservative issues. In particular, the discussion surrounded the pro-life budget amendments the governor chose not to introduce — defunding Planned Parenthood and failed embryonic stem cell research. On that issue I said to the Post:

We want him to do more, and we will continue to ask him.

I stand by those words. Once something is in the budget it is difficult to remove it. While we trust that Planned Parenthood will not receive any taxpayer money during this administration, we continue to believe that adding such language to the state budget will protect taxpayers in future years.

But remember the context of my Post interview:

In between my interview with the Post and the article's publication — several days — the governor fulfilled an extremely important campaign promise and reversed the Kaine administration's discriminatory prohibition on prayers offered by state police chaplains. In a press release I said we were "thrilled" with the governor's action, and we are. This was an important and courageous action and Virginians are better off for it. We also asked you to contact Governor McDonnell and thank him as well.

So, how is the governor doing? (Honestly, I think social conservatives need to take a deep breath, and remember that there are still three years and seven months left in this administration. We have to remember the victories he has delivered, while knowing that there is still a lot to be accomplished. But we are confident that the governor understands the concerns we have. There are pressing issues facing our commonwealth and the governor needs to address those issues. At the same time, the culture of Virginia must also be a priority for this administration. We will continue to encourage him to take the lead on family issues that are the foundation to the very economy he is trying to fix (see more of my comments in another article on this topic in the Richmond Times-Dispatch).

The Family Foundation is determined to be strategic in our efforts. We understand the political climate is hostile and we have to accept that incremental victories are victories nonetheless. Those who demand "all or nothing" tend to receive nothing. We are encouraged by the recent actions of Governor McDonnell and continue to believe he will fulfill his campaign promises.

Another Year In The Committee Of Death

The Senate Education and Health Committee richly deserves its "Committee of Death" moniker — it has been the graveyard for pro-life legislation for most of the decade. No pro-life bill has survived this committee regardless of its simplicity or common sense. As usual, a valuable bill that would have improved the safety regulations of the Commonwealth’s abortion centers was defeated there yesterday on a vote of 11-4 — a party line vote, with the exception of Senator Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), who voted against the bill as he did last year. Patroned by Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg), HB 393 would require that these unregulated surgical facilities that perform abortions to be inspected, have emergency life-saving equipment, and be overseen by a state regulatory agency just as any other outpatient surgical center. This legislation has long been a pro-life priority. Delegate Lohr eloquently pointed out to the committee the disparity between how these unregulated surgical abortion centers are treated compared to other medical facilities. As inexplicable as it is, 11 members of the committee believe that incredibly less invasive procedures such as lasik surgery, blood donation, face lifts, colonoscopies and oral surgery should be held to higher standards than abortion procedures.

Perhaps most alarming was Dr. Wendy Klein, from the VCU School of Medicine, who claimed, "Abortion is the safest medical procedure you can have!" The opposition to HB 393 cited the National Abortion Federation, an association that oversees seven abortion centers in Virginia, as a reliable self-regulatory organization. However, as I clarified in my testimony, this is far from reassuring. For example, NAF requires only a midlevel clinician (not necessarily a physician) to perform an abortion procedure. Fortunately, Virginia Code protects against this, but clearly NAF guidelines, as exemplified in this one standard, cannot be assumed sufficient!

Countering these arguments, in addition to Delegate Lohr and The Family Foundation, were a number of organizations that clearly outnumbered the pro-abortion forces, including representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, Virginia Society For Human Life and the Virginia Catholic Conference.

Dr. Klein was at it again on HB 334, patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas). This bill, also defeated yesterday on the exact same 11-4 vote, would bolster Virginia's informed consent law by making available to women seeking abortions statistics that show the difficulties of future pregnancies and births to women who previously had abortions (as much as eight times higher). She said that bill presumes women can't figure out things for themselves. So, she admits there are risks!

Even more shocking was Senator Dick Saslaw's (D-35, Springfield) response to the citation of the House of Delegates vote on this bill (95-2). He said a member told him it got that many votes because many who voted for it knew "we'd kill it over here." Aside from the crass cynicism and joy he seemed to take in those seemingly vindictive words, if Senator Saslaw is correct, it shows that an overwhelmingly large amount of Virginians favor this type of legislation and that their representatives are afraid to vote against their constituents' interests. The pro-abortion crowd can't have it both ways.

While it is difficult to stand before this committee year in and year out with such reasonable legislation only to see it killed, we appreciate the legislators who are willing to continue to force lawmakers to go on record opposing this legislation. The Family Foundation remains committed to fighting for pro-life and pro-family issues.

There Are Pro-Life Dems Just As There Are "Pro-Choice" Republicans

Democrats For Life of America, Inc.
DFLA -The pro-life voice within the Democratic Party
_____________________________________________________________
FEDERAL ADVISORY BOARD
U.S. Representative
Jerry Costello (D-IL)
U.S. Representative
Licoln Davis (D-TN)
U.S. Representative
James Langevin (D-RI)
U.S. Representative
Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV)
U.S. Senator
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
U.S. Representative
James Oberstar (D-MN)
U.S. Representative
Tim Ryan (D-OH)
U.S. Representative
Bart Stupak (D-MI)
U.S. Representative
Gene Taylor (D-MS)
NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD
Helen Alvare (DC)
Nat Hentoff (NY)
The Honorable Chris John (LA)
The Honorable John LaFalce (NY)
The Honorable Charlie Stenholm (TX)
The Honorable Tim Roemer (IN)
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Alabama
Joe Turham
California
Paul Contino
Georgia
Silvia Delamar
Massachusetts
Brian Keaney (Secretary/Treasurer)
Minnesota
Janet Robert (President)
Missouri
Joan Barry (Vice-Preisent)
New York
Carol Crossed (Vice-President
Chapter Development)
Ohio
Lou Koenig
Pennsylvania
Pat Casey
Texas
Lois Kerschen (Secretary/Treasurer)
March 3, 2010 Dear Chairman Houck and Members of the Committee,
Democrats For Life of America supports HB 393 and urges you to support this important legislation.
Abortion can be a divisive issue. We, at Democrats For Life of America, have worked to find areas of agreement where, regardless of one’s position on abortion, people can agree on good policy.
While we oppose abortion, we have worked for over five years on our 95-10 Initiative with the goal of reducing abortion by providing women who experience unplanned pregnancies with assistance so they will have the resources and support to bring their child to term. But some women will still see abortion -- a surgical procedure -- as their only option. So it is essential that we protect their health and safety under proper standards of care.
HB 393 is good policy, which provides for only three basic provisions any facility that performs invasive surgery should be asked to accommodate: an annual inspection, a license and having life-saving equipment on location. Certainly, we can agree that these are reasonable for anyone who thinks abortion should be legal, but safe. HB 393 is an opportunity both sides of this issue to come together to do what is best for Virginia’s women.
If this were any other procedure, the facility would be licensed by the Commonwealth and subject to reasonable regulations. We should not think of this as an infringement on abortion rights, but a good bill to protect Virginia women from potentially unsafe situations.
We urge the Committee to vote for this common-sense measure to protect the women of Virginia.
Sincerely,
Kristen Day

This morning was the Senate Education and Health Committee's annual "Black Thursday" — each session, the committee hears the pro-life bills passed by the House of Delegates on the last Thursday of its calendar and promptly kills them. It did this under Republican control and continues to do so under Democrat control. Under Democrat control, however, the committee was stacked in a way out of proportion 10-5 majority despite only having a two-seat advantage in the chamber (see "Senate Math" here).

This year, it did no less. It killed HB 393 and HB 334 on 11-5 votes, with Republican Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk) joining the 10 Democrats in not being able to bring himself to vote for life-saving equipment in abortion centers nor providing women considering abortion accurate information about the risks of future pregnancies and births. It left HB 1042 to die without a hearing when Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) was unable to attend the meeting.

However, just as not all Republicans are not pro-life (Senator Quayle and others), not all Democrats are "pro-choice." For several years now, we have been proud to ally ourselves with Democrats For Life of America, a national organization of pro-life Democrats, with chapters in several states. It works to bring the pro-life philosophy to the Democrat Party and boasts several high-profile elected officials, such as U.S. Representative Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), author of the Stupak Amendment in the House version of the health care "reform" bill. The amendment bans federal funding of abortion or mandates on insurance companies to cover abortion. DFL issued a letter last night in support of HB 393. It is below in its entirety, including its Board members. We salute the continued good work and success of Democrats For Life of America.

______________________________________________________________

Democrats For Life of America, Inc.

DFLA - The pro-life voice within the Democratic Party

_____________________________________________________________

March 3, 2010

Dear Chairman Houck and Members of the Committee:

Democrats For Life of America supports HB 393 and urges you to support this important legislation.

Abortion can be a divisive issue. We, at Democrats For Life of America, have worked to find areas of agreement where, regardless of one’s position on abortion, people can agree on good policy.

While we oppose abortion, we have worked for over five years on our 95-10 Initiative with the goal of reducing abortion by providing women who experience unplanned pregnancies with assistance so they will have the resources and support to bring their child to term. But some women will still see abortion -- a surgical procedure -- as their only option. So it is essential that we protect their health and safety under proper standards of care.

HB 393 is good policy, which provides for only three basic provisions any facility that performs invasive surgery should be asked to accommodate: an annual inspection, a license and having life-saving equipment on location. Certainly, we can agree that these are reasonable for anyone who thinks abortion should be legal, but safe. HB 393 is an opportunity both sides of this issue to come together to do what is best for Virginia’s women.

If this were any other procedure, the facility would be licensed by the Commonwealth and subject to reasonable regulations. We should not think of this as an infringement on abortion rights, but a good bill to protect Virginia women from potentially unsafe situations.

We urge the Committee to vote for this common-sense measure to protect the women of Virginia.

Sincerely,

Kristen Day

Executive Director

Pro-Life Bills Up Thursday In Senate Ed And Health

This Thursday the Senate Education and Health Committee will vote on several pro-life bills that are priorities of The Family Foundation. Please contact the members of the Ed and Health committee (see here) and urge them to pass the following bills:

HB 334 (Delegate Bob Marshall, R-13, Manassas): This bill would require that our Informed Consent law be updated to include information that has been published in a peer reviewed medical journal about the consequences of abortion on future pregnancies. Ironically, Planned Parenthood, which has accused pregnancy resource centers of disseminating information that is not "medically accurate," is opposed to this bill that requires the information given to women at Virginia's unregulated abortion centers to be exactly that —  medically accurate.

HB 393 (Delegate Matt Lohr, R-26, Harrisonburg): This legislation would require Virginia’s unregulated abortion centers to have on site life saving equipment, as well as require licensing and regular inspection. Currently, Virginia’s abortion centers are unregulated and uninspected.

HB 1042 (Delegate Kathy Byron, R-22, Lynchburg): This bill would require that unregulated abortion centers perform an ultrasound to better determine the gestational age of the unborn child prior to an abortion, and offer the woman seeking the abortion the opportunity to view the ultrasound. It would bring Virginia's Informed Consent law in line with modern medical technology.

If you are familiar at all with the Virginia General Assembly then you are aware just how antagonistic the majority of the Ed and Health committee usually is toward even the most reasonable pro-life legislation. On an annual basis, we see pro-life bills die on what we have begun to call "Black Thursday" — the last Thursday of committee hearings each session.

Why, bother contacting these legislators who seem so clearly opposed to protecting the unborn? There are several reasons:

First, past votes are not always indications of future action. Legislators change their minds. You may recall Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath), while running for governor, talking about "growing" as a legislator (he was referring to his flip-flop on the Marriage Amendment). We have worked with legislators who have become more and more pro-life over their time in the legislature, often through the education process associated with debate over these bills.

Which leads to a second reason, education. These bills offer us the opportunity to educate both legislators and the public on these important issues. They give you the opportunity to discuss controversial issues with friends and neighbors by talking about reasonable measures often supported by large majorities. Each time we present these bills to a committee we are able to reach more people with the message of the importance of protecting both the unborn and women who face a crisis pregnancy. You never know when a legislator is going to hear an argument that is going to change their opinion of a certain piece of legislation.

Finally, these votes expose where legislators currently are on reasonable abortion measures. Several members of the Ed and Health committee are in districts that have a pro-life  constituency. These senators mask as "moderate," but their voting records on these bills have exposed their real positions. Next year, when these senators are up for re-election, the voters in their districts will know exactly where they stand on these issues because they will have a four-year voting record to look at. Voters will then be able to hold them accountable for their votes.

So, please do your part. Contact the members of the Ed and Health committee and urge them to support HB 334, HB 393 and HB 1042.

More Education Reform Snuffed Out In Senate

Earlier in the week we vividly showed how the obstinate the  education reform is to education reform, freedom and choice (see here). Also last week, in a much less publicized action, the Senate killed a modest bill, HB 76 — watered down from its original incarnation thanks to the educrat establishment, which amends, amends then kills then stomps the remains to death — patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20, Staunton), a public school teacher. The vote in the Senate Education and Health Committee was 14-1, but its fate was sealed last week when an Ed and Health sub-committee voted 4-1 not to recommend it. The bill, had it become law, would begin the process of moving Virginia’s government-run schools toward spending 65 percent of their budgets in the classroom and to pare down central office administrative waste. However, sub-committee members Mamie Locke (D-2, Hampton) and Janet Howell (D-32, Fairfax) and every educrat organization in Virginia, such as the VEA and the Virginia School Boards Association, lambasted the bill as "undermining public education," despite the fact it would improve education by putting more money into instruction, as several states have with great success — and waste less on administrative overhead and bureaucracy. Only Senator Frank Ruff (R-15, Clarksville) spoke in favor of the bill and made a motion to save it, but could not get the necessary second, even from fellow Republican, and sub-committee chairman, Senator Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake), who is the chair by a quirk in Senate rules. Senator Ruff was the only dissenting vote in the full committee, as well.

Liberals like to call conservatives and negative, lacking in creativity and vision, always saying "no." We ask, when are liberals going to stop reflexively saying no to reform and what are their suggestions (except more money for the status quo)? Do they really think the current education system is working as is?

Questions And Answers Regarding The Virginia Senate

After all the reporting we've done this week on SB 504, Senator Ralph Smith's (R-22, Roanoke) coerced abortion bill, and the Senate's mischief with it, the in-box has been flooded and the phone lines burned up with questions. We are grateful for your interest and for your desire to get involved. With all the interest, we decided to compile a FAQ list, of sorts. Here goes:   Who hires the Clerk of the Senate?

Mrs. Susan Schaar is the Clerk of the Senate and has held that office since 1990. According to Senate Rule 8a:

A Clerk of the Senate shall be elected by the Senate for a term of four years and shall thereafter continue in office until another is chosen.

Among the Clerk’s duties are the maintenance of all Senate records and the referral of bills to committees. In different circumstances, we would provide you with Mrs. Schaar’s contact information and ask for you to contact her to encourage judicious bill referrals. However, since Mrs. Schaar is not elected by the populace and instead is elected by the Senate — and instructed to strictly follow its rules — contacting her to encourage changes to bill referrals is not the most appropriate course of action.

When can "the rule" be changed?

According to Rule 54 of the Senate, the Senate rules are adopted at the beginning of the first General Assembly session upon the election of the Senate. The Rules were last adopted in January 2008. Amendments can be made any year; however, January 2012 is the next year rules will be adopted.

What can I do?

Contacting legislators really does make a difference. In the past, we’ve seen that even as few as two or three e-mails or calls from constituents can cause a legislator to reconsider his or her vote. Concerning this bill, there are two things you can do:

1. Contact the Senate Courts of Justice Committee members (see below). Thank those who supported SB 504 for their principled stand for life. For those who opposed SB 504, let them know that you were monitoring this bill and that you were disappointed with their vote.

2. Contact the Senate Education and Health Committee members (click here) and encourage them to support SB 504.

How can I express thanks/disappointment to senators on their SB 504 vote?

Below are the names and contact information for the Senators on the full Senate Courts of Justice committee. E-mailing or calling is the best way to contact these senators to express your thanks or disappointment.

Senators to thank for voting to add penalties for coerced abortion:

Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), district13@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7513

Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg), district03@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7503

Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville), district20@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7520

Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), district26@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7526

Ryan McDougle (R-4, Mechanicsville), district04@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7504

Robert Hurt (R-19, Chatham), district19@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7519

Senators voting against adding penalties for coerced abortion:

Henry Marsh (D-16, Richmond), district16@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7516

Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield), district25@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7535

Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), district32@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7532

Louise Lucas (D-18, Portsmouth), district18@senate.virginia.gov, 804-98-7518

John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke), district21@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7521

Toddy Puller (D-36, Mount Vernon), district36@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7536

Creigh Deeds (D-25, Charlottesville), district25@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7525

Don McEachin (D-9, Richmond), district09@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7509

Chap Petersen (D-34, Fairfax) , district34@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7526

This Just In . . . Planned Parenthood Celebrates Roe V. Wade With Lies About Abortion Center Safety Bill

We just received an e-mail from Planned Parenthood. It's oh, so heartwarming (not!) to see the abortion industry celebrate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as millions of people in Washington, D.C., today, and elsewhere, mourn the deplorable decision. This is how they celebrate: They send an e-mail alert that lies about the content of HB 393, a bill passed on a bipartisan 16-6 vote yesterday in the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. It would add three simple, common sense provisions to unregulated abortion centers. The bill, patroned by Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg) goes to the House floor for an up or down vote Monday (contact your delegate).

Just as during their committee testimony yesterday, the e-mail is full of lies about the bill. It's a standard liberal tactic: The truth is whatever you say it is, no matter if what you say is no where to be found in the bill. For example, PP makes claims about "the architectural, procedural, staffing and equipment requirements of ambulatory surgery centers" which are not in the bill.

The bill mandates three simple things: licensure, an annual inspection and keeping defibrillators on premises. (There are three defibrillators in the General Assembly Building!) Nothing about building codes or staffing. In fact, in 2008, when this same bill came before the Senate Education and Health Committee, and Delegate Lohr offered the committee a substitute in full view of the committee room that specifically limited the bill to those three elements, the PP lobbyist read from her script, not deviating one second, using rote talking points about a bill 10 years old. It was the same yesterday in committee.  

So, thank you PP, for putting lies ahead of women's safety. Below is the e-mail (apparently sent to non-Virginians as well) in which PP tells its followers how and what to say to lawmakers, word for word.

Dear xxxxx,

Today marks the 37th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Since this time, there have been numerous attempts to chip away at Roe on the local, state, and federal levels. One of the biggest threats to Roe today is decreased access to providers of first trimester abortions. In fact, 87% of counties in the United States do not have abortion providers.

Ironically, members of the Virginia House of Delegates will be voting on HB 393, Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers, on Monday, January 25. This bill is a thinly disguised attempt to impose burdensome and unnecessary regulations on abortion providers so that the provision of services would become prohibitively expensive and thus out of reach for many women in Virginia. 

Please contact your legislator and ask him or her to OPPOSE HB 393.

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):

Your Delegate (if you live in Virginia)

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Please OPPOSE HB 393, Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers

Dear [decision maker],

I am writing to ask that you OPPOSE HB 393, Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers. This legislation has little to do with patient safety and is instead intended to decrease access to safe abortion services in Virginia. Abortion care is already provided safely in accordance with state and federal regulatory agencies. Furthermore, the architectural, procedural, staffing and equipment requirements of ambulatory surgery centers are unrelated to the safety of first trimester abortion procedures provided in medical offices.

Compliance with these unnecessary requirements would make abortion services prohibitively expensive to provide and thus unavailable for many women in Virginia.

Please protect women's access to reproductive health care and OPPOSE HB 393.

Policy Issue 2, Life: Newborn Homocide Bill

This is the second in a series of five policy statements on issues that will come before the 2010 General Assembly. The first, regarding parental rights, can be found here. Each statement covers one of The Family Foundation's five areas of principle. The others will follow over the rest of the week.

Just a few days before Christmas, Virginians learned of an appalling story from Campbell County in which a mother allegedly suffocated her infant to death when it was only moments old. Worse, no charges were filed against the mother. Why has this murder essentially been condoned by the authorities? Because the child was umbillically attached when murdered.

Virginia law is unclear about whether a born child who remains umbilically attached is a "separate and independent life" and, therefore, accorded basic human rights — such as life! The legal standard was set in Lane v. Commonwealth, where the Virginia Supreme Court held that in order to bring charges against someone who killed a newborn, it must be proven that:

» The child is born alive,

» Has an independent and separate existence from the mother, and 

» The accused is the criminal agent that caused the death.

Incredibly, the court saw a distinction between a child "born alive" and one having an "independent and separate existence" from the mother. Abortion advocates are so desperate to protect their "right" to abortion that they blur the lines of homicide as well — the law has been crafted in such a way as to allow for a class of cases in which the criminal code no longer is applied.

For those of us who are pro-life, murder and abortion are synonymous. However, to our opponents, the start of life is ambiguous and even the "I know it when I see it" pornography standard isn't concrete enough to be applied to life. They are always moving the target, always excusing, always apologizing. But no matter what anyone believes about abortion, there is no reasonable argument for the murder of a newly born infant.

Virginia has a partial birth infanticide law and we are investigating whether that law could be applied here. But the action alleged in the Campbell County case is so heinous that is needs to be addressed in our criminal code as well.

Over a year ago state Senator Robert Hurt (R-19, Chatham) began investigating how to make Virginia’s law stronger in this area. He urged the Virginia Crime Commission to study the issue and propose legislative changes, but the commission only did so after being forced to by Senator Hurt and Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville). We have contacted the Alliance Defense Fund and they are reviewing possible legislative remedies for this situation.

Several years ago, a similarly disturbing incident took place in which a pregnant woman shot herself in the stomach on her due date and was not prosecuted for anything more than unlawful discharge of a firearm. She paid a small fine and nothing was added to her record. The Family Foundation took the legislative initiative to address this issue, but the bill was defeated in the Senate Education and Health committee.

This year, The Family Foundation is supporting an Infant Born Alive Act (HB 1033), patroned by Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), in the General Assembly in response to the Campbell County incident. Legislators will get yet another opportunity to fix the loophole in the law and protect Virginia’s infant children. Let’s pray that they recognize life when they see it and support life-protecting legislation.

Campbell County Mother Murders Newborn, Time For Virginia Senate To Act!

As we draw closer to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus, a story out of Campbell County has drawn outrage from across the nation, and reveals just how far we have fallen in our culture in defense of abortion on demand: A baby allegedly was murdered by its mother moments after it was born, but because the child was still attached by the umbilical cord, under Virginia law, it is not considered a "separate life." Thus, no charges will be filed. In the words of one investigator:

In the state of Virginia as long as the umbilical cord is attached and the placenta is still in the mother, if the baby comes out alive the mother can do whatever she wants to with that baby to kill it. She could shoot the baby, stab the baby. As long as it’s still attached to her in some form by umbilical cord or something it’s no crime in the state of Virginia.

You can read more about this disturbing case here, from WSLS.com. It's also received national attention, including this, from the blog Hot Air, here.

The Family Foundation worked with Delegate Chris Jones (R-76, Suffolk) during the 2007 and 2008 sessions of the General Assembly to fix the law regarding a case where a mother shot herself in the stomach on the day her unborn child was due to be delivered. That legislation overwhelmingly passed the House of Delegates (see new 2010 member contact information) on two occasions but was defeated both times in the Senate Education and Health committee.

These are the members of the Senate Education and Health committee who are so extreme in their defense of abortion that they voted against legislation that would make it a crime for someone to kill their child in this way: Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield), Louise Lucas (D-18, Portsmouth), Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke), Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31, Arlington), Maime Locke (D-2, Hampton), George Barker (D-39, Alexandria), Ralph Northam (D-6, Norfolk), John Miller (D-1, Newport News). Committee Chairman Edd Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania) did not vote on the legislation. (Click on the links to get their contact information. Click here to see our General Assembly Report Card on their votes.)

Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Lynchburg) and Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) will introduce legislation in the 2010 General Assembly session that once again will attempt to fix this "loophole" and make it a crime to murder a nearly born or newborn child. We must remember, however, that there are many in our General Assembly who, like our president, apparently believe it is perfectly reasonable for a mother to take the life of a newborn child if it protects the sacred "right" to abortion. How else can one explain their voting records? If we can’t fix this and protect the lives of those children born alive, God help us.

Now, here's an important, coincidental, side note to all this: A new policy in effect just this week by the Senate of Virginia (contact clerk, here) blocks all e-mail from non-constituents that come through action alert programs. We are reviewing the legality of this, but you can contact these senators by e-mailing, calling or faxing them directly. We hope you will do just that and urge them to support legislation during 2010 that will ensure that this type of murder does not happen again. When you do, please:

» Mention the Campbell county story; you could even include a news link.

» Remind them that they voted against legislation in 2008 (HB 1126) that dealt with similar circumstances.

» Tell them they will vote on legislation fixing this situation in 2010 and you expect them to vote in favor of it and will hold them accountable for their vote!

Prayer Vigil At New $3.5 Million Richmond Abortion Center Tomorrow; That's A Lot Of Money For A "Non-Profit" That Gets State Funding

Planned Parenthood is moving to a larger abortion center in Richmond tomorrow, per Saturday's Richmond Times-Dispatch. According to the article, it will be twice the size of the current abortion center and cost $3.5 million to buy and remodel. Hmmmm. With all that money Planned Parenthood 1) shouldn't have the need for state funding, now should it? And 2), if it is so up-to-date-modern, it shouldn't object to opening its doors for inspections and have life saving equipment on site, either, right? Those are two of three measly requirements the Senate Education and Health Committee has rejected the last two sessions of the General Assembly

The soon-t0-be-vacated location was easily marked by passers-by as an abortion center by constant prayer vigils by Richmond Coalition for Life, which sponsors the highly successful 40 Days for Life program, and other pro-lifers. Tomorrow, at 9:30 a.m., Planned Parenthood will have a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new abortion center at 201 North Hamilton, in the city. But RCL will be there, too, continuing its vigils. It says in an e-mail:

"In response to this event, we would like to organize a peaceful group to pray. ... Our goal is to show our community that we are against the opening of this new facility through our peaceful  presence. In addition, we will pray for an end to abortion in our country, the moral conversion of the doctors, nurses, and supporters of this new facility, and the closing of this clinic."

Anyone promising to engage in peaceful prayer is welcome to attend. For more information, follow this 40 Days for Life Facebook link. Regardless of whether you can attend, the prayer vigils at the new location will continue — and individual prayer is always needed.