Victoria Cobb

Regional Voter Guides are Now Available!!!

Just one vote! That's all it took in 2017 when Delegate David Yancey tied with his challenger and had to have the winner decided by drawing a name out of a bowl.  So it's no exaggeration to say that one person in one church helped make sure that pro-life conservatives maintained the majority in the House of Delegates that year.    

The Family Foundation Action has created four Regional General Assembly Voter Guides, including for Metro Richmond, Tidewater (Peninsula to Virginia Beach), Loudoun/Fairfax, and Prince William/Stafford, based on the regions with the most competitive races this election cycle.  These Regional Guides contain multiple contested House and Senate races and are intended to educate voters about the candidates for the upcoming November 5th, 2019 General Election.  They are designed to motivate citizens to vote and enable them to make informed choices when they go to the ballot box in only a few weeks.

Click the links below to download a printable PDF version of the Regional Voter Guides to share and/or print.                     

                                         METRO RICHMOND                    TIDEWATER

                                         LOUDOUN/FAIRFAX                   PRINCE WILLIAM/STAFFORD

We are printing only these Regional Voter Guides and mailing them to those who order them to distribute in their region. If you wish to place an order for a particular region, you can do so by clicking HERE.  If you wish to get Voter Guides for individual House of Delegates and Senate races, TFF Action will not be printing these, but the PDFs for each will be linked to our website in the coming days for anyone to view, share and print.  Our website also features a helpful link that allows you to search for your state Delegate and Senator.

Please consider helping to offset the cost of these Voter Guides so that we can send them to more churches and Virginians, you can do so HERE.  A suggested donation of $.25 per copy is encouraged to help defray costs of printing and distribution.  Please also consider sponsoring the distribution of 100, 500 or even 1,000 Voter Guides with a donation of $25, $125, or $250.  If you prefer to make a donation by check please make them out to "TFF Action" and mail to 707 E. Franklin Street, Richmond, VA 23219.  Thank you for your support!

The mission of The Family Foundation Action is to protect families and promote responsible citizenship by giving Virginians the tools they need to hold their elected officials accountable.  The Family Foundation Action is not a PAC and does not endorse candidates. Therefore, please be advised that political campaigns and candidates for public office may not use either The Family Foundation or The Family Foundation Action logo for any campaign-related publications.  Any such use of these logos is not authorized and should be ceased and corrected immediately.

Give to TFF Action!

The Family Foundation Action is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(4) organization and paid for this informational communication.  Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Punching Back: Peter Vlaming Fights for Conscience for Himself and All Teachers

Yesterday, Peter Vlaming, after having his livelihood completely disrupted last December when he was fired by the West Point School Board for not addressing a student with opposite-sex pronouns, announced he is suing the School Board for violating his constitutional rights of free speech and the exercise of his religious convictions.

You may recall that Mr. Vlaming was fired following a hearing before the Board not for what he said, but because of what he didn’t say in refusing to use male pronouns when addressing a female student who, after two years in Mr. Vlaming’s French class, decided to begin identifying as a boy.  In fact, in an effort be respectful of the student, he committed to using the student’s newly chosen (traditionally male) name, and to refrain from using any pronouns at all for the student, so as not to offend the student or anyone else.

All Mr. Vlaming did was follow his conscience, which could not permit him to speak objective falsehoods that distort the true nature of male and female as God created them. But of course, as we should all know by now, anything short of total celebration and participation in someone else’s sexual expressions is simply unacceptable to the ever-growing purveyors of sexual totalitarianism.

We stand with Mr. Vlaming who is standing up for his own conscience rights and the conscience rights of teachers across Virginia. And we are glad to see he is ‘punching back’ against the Board’s blatant and unlawful religious discrimination, by seeking $1 million in damages for current and future lost wages, benefits, loss of reputation, and pain and suffering for he and his family of six. And we’re thrilled that our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom will be representing him in this fight.

Please continue to pray for Peter as he stands in the gap for all teachers to be able to live according to their conscience and not be forced to express untrue messages which they disbelieve, but especially when it violates their deeply held religious convictions.

For more background on Peter Vlaming’s story, please read our blogs:

Answered Prayer In Major Abortion Lawsuit

Last night, federal district court Judge Henry E. Hudson released his highly-anticipated 67-page opinion in the abortion industry’s challenge to virtually all of Virginia’s pro-life laws, Falls Church Medical Center v. Oliver. (For a recap of the two-week trial earlier this summer, read our blog here.)  In a huge answer to prayer, the decision is a near-total repudiation of the abortion industry's baseless claims and a huge victory for the rule of law and Virginia's common-sense measures to protect women's health, safety, and ensure their fully-informed consent before making an irreversible decision to end the life of their unborn child.

The Court upheld nearly every one of the health and safety standards for inspections in abortion centers, as well as the hospital requirement for surgical and post-viability 2nd-trimester and all 3rd-trimester abortions, the requirement that only a physician may perform the procedure, and all of Virginia's informed consent law, which includes the opportunity to view an ultrasound image and a mandatory 24-hour wait period after the ultrasound and prior to an abortion.

Your faithful prayers have been answered! And the hard-fought pro-life victories of over 40 years in Virginia have nearly all been affirmed by this opinion. This outcome is especially noteworthy because it comes in spite of the fact that our own Attorney General Mark Herring, the abortion industry's greatest ally, again refused to defend our laws, but instead opted to hire outside counsel who proved throughout the litigation all too willing to cede critical issues without a fight. 

While the opinion was an overall win, especially considering the number and nature of the laws that were challenged, we are very disappointed that the Court chose to grant abortion facilities the ability now to perform “pre-viability” 2nd-trimester abortions, instead of the far safer and more accountable hospital setting the statute required for any abortion past the first trimester. The Court reasoned that, since just two Virginia facilities routinely perform 2nd-trimester abortions, not allowing abortion facilities to do them is “unduly burdensome” – even though no evidence was ever presented to indicate that any woman in Virginia had any difficulty accessing those facilities.  

Not only will this virtually guarantee more unborn lives will be lost, and more money will flow to the billion-dollar abortion industry, but it presumably leaves it up to profit-driven abortionists to determine when a child is considered "viable" or not. Given that our own Governor – who ultimately oversees the Department of Health – unashamedly maintains that babies who are viable enough to survive an attempted 2nd-trimester abortion should simply be left on a table to die, how in the world could anyone trust Planned Parenthood to restrain themselves from killing viable babies in the 2nd trimester?

While it is true that most abortions take place during the first trimester of pregnancy, we fear this opens the door for later abortions to become more common. Yet as a practical matter, we were already aware that some of these facilities have begun doing 2nd-trimester abortions after Attorney General Herring recently signaled to the abortion centers that they could perform 2nd-trimester abortions without fear of prosecution from his office. The one other unfortunate part of the opinion eliminates certain requirements for design and construction standards, such as halls wide enough to carry a stretcher though, for abortion facilities performing first-trimester abortions, despite the demonstrated need for many of these requirements in a medical setting. At the same time, the Board of Health has already provided variances for this requirement to every facility that has requested it since the regulations took effect in 2011, so there is effectively no change.

We don't yet know whether the abortion industry will appeal the case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, so we will continue to monitor the situation. Meanwhile, we praise God for many answered prayers, and for the many continued protections for unborn lives and their mothers. 

Join Us for a Rally at the Supreme Court Oct. 8th!

On Tuesday, October 8th, at 9:00 a.m, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in one of the most important religious freedom cases in decades, Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I will be there to speak out in defense of truth and religious freedom and to support our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who are representing Thomas Rost, the owner of Harris Funeral Homes. 

To learn more about Thomas’s story, read ADF’s post on it here.

We recently joined with other groups in submitting an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court in support of the rights of faith-based business owners. At issue in this case is whether federal law’s prohibition against sex discrimination in private employment encompasses people who self-identify as being the sex other than their actual biological sex. This case will have a significant impact on nearly every business in America, but especially for business owners whose faith is central to who they are and why they do what they do.

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You may remember the historic rally from 2017 when the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Jack Philips case.  We need another strong showing this time!  The LGBTQ+ supporters consider this case their Waterloo moment and are expecting large crowds to swarm the steps of the Supreme Court.  But the voice of common-sense and faith-oriented people all across this nation must not be drowned out by those who seek to utterly destroy the very image of God as expressed through male and female, and who would take away others’ rights to privacy, free speech, and religious liberty.  

Please stand with us in this critical moment for our country on October 8th on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

New York City Council Did What?

Earlier this month the Richmond City Council approved a non-binding resolution urging Virginia lawmakers to pass legislation next year prohibiting “conversion therapy” (i.e. talk therapy) that counselors use to help minors overcome unwanted sexual desires. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) described talk therapy as barbaric, abusive, inhumane and regressive in a Twitter statement applauding the resolution, and suggested that counselors should only be “affirming the sexual orientation and identities of all Richmonders.”

This news comes as the Virginia Boards for Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work have all initiated regulations that would impose penalties against counselors who engage in talk therapy, including potentially the revocation of their professional license.

Mayor Stoney and the Richmond City Council now join these regulatory boards in holding that counselors should be permitted to help a minor client to explore and facilitate same-sex feelings, attractions and behaviors, or even to “change” their sex altogether, but must be PROHIBITED from helping a minor client overcome these feelings and urges! This dangerous policy entraps minors in a lifestyle from which they desperately wish to escape and denies the fundamental free speech rights of professional counselors who legitimately wish to help them.

Compare this with the New York City Council, which recently overturned a 2017 policy that punished professional counselors if they provide biologically affirming therapy services to a minor seeking to overcome unwanted transgender feelings or same-sex attraction. The law was worded so broadly that it could apply to “any services,” including private conversations initiated by the patient.

What’s remarkable about this change is that LGBTQ advocates strongly urged the council members to overturn this law, not because they wanted it reversed, but because they fear that the courts may no longer uphold bans on “professional speech.”

Since the law’s passage, it has been challenged in court by Dr. Dovid Schwartz, an Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist who is facing severe penalties and fines for providing talk therapy to patients, and the U.S. Supreme court has handed down a ruling that strongly indicated that these talk therapy bans are not constitutional. In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NIFLA v. Becerra – a case involving the free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers – that speech isn’t unprotected because it's uttered by a professional, specifically rejecting to two lower court decisions that upheld “conversion therapy” bans.

Whether or not the New York City Council’s reversal of the 2017 law was in response to more conservative judges being added to courts or because of the NIFLA decision, the reversal is still a significant victory for many New York counselors that affirms their religious liberty and fundamental speech rights.

Let’s hope that the City of Richmond and Mayor Stoney will take their cue from New York City (just this once!) and recognize that prohibiting a counselor’s free speech is unconstitutional and rescind its misguided resolution.

Stafford School Board Ignores Parents’ Concerns

Late last night, just after midnight in a still-packed room, after four hours of public comments from over 100 speakers, the Stafford County School Board narrowly voted 4 - 3 to approve two nondiscrimination policies that elevate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a special protected class, ignoring the cries of an overwhelming number of concerned parents in attendance.  The policies give the district’s Superintendent virtually unlimited latitude to interpret and implement them as he sees fit  - including the use of bathrooms, showers, and changing facilities - without any control or approval by the Board.

Adding insult to injury, the Board voted 4-3 against a motion to allow the Board’s legal Memo from their attorney to be made available to the public for the sake of transparency. The four members clearly have something they don’t want the public to know, since the Chairwoman revealed that she was voting against the policy because she agreed with the legal advice the Board was given!

Our Policy team, Todd Gathje and Josh Hetzler, attended the meeting, along with many dozens of parents and allies in the fight against these dangerously misguided policies, and spoke to both the policy and legal consequences they will bring.

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You can watch the entire recorded meeting HERE and read the policies for yourself at the following links:

Proposed New Policy 2420 (Student Services: Nondiscrimination, Equal Education Opportunity). 

Proposed Revisions to Policy 4107 (Human Resources Services: Nondiscrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity, Anti-Retaliation).

Over and over again proponents of the policies, including some Board members, claimed that they had NOTHING to do with bathrooms or locker rooms.  And yet, they cited as their primary justification for the policy just one isolated incident last year involving a female student claiming to be “transgender” who was left in the hallway during an emergency drill instead of in the sex-segregated locker rooms with the other students.  If these policies aren’t about allowing students and staff into opposite-sex bathrooms, showers, and changing areas, what are they about?  After all, they already have policies prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student.

Of course, this has everything to do with bathrooms, access to locker rooms, and changing facilities!  In fact Gavin Grimm, the female student from Gloucester County at the center of a major court case involving access to bathrooms, who also spoke last night, explained in an interview that transgender students don’t deserve the stigmatism of having to use single occupant bathrooms.

The School Superintendent, who has every intention of taking this as far as possible, will now be able to establish onerous guidelines for all students, teachers and administrators to follow within every context of the public schools, with very little oversight by the Board.

These policies have opened the door for every student to have unrestricted access to all sex-specific facilities - including locker rooms, showers, or bathrooms of the opposite biological sex - so long as the student merely claims to identify as that sex.  This violates every student’s fundamental, constitutionally protected, right to bodily privacy and will force them into situations that make them feel uncomfortable or fearful.  In addition to concerns about privacy, these policies will compel students, teachers and administrators to use phrases or pronouns that conflict with their beliefs about the biological realities of males and females, or be reprimanded by the school. Many of the parents alluded of former West Point High School teacher, Peter Vlaming, who was recently fired for this very reason after that school board passed a similar policy.

All of this will happen notwithstanding the clear and vocal opposition of parents, who see their fundamental right to control their children’s education and upbringing being eroded and their children now being put in danger by people who might abuse the policies for wrong purposes.

What happened in Stafford last night could be coming to your county, as many school boards have been watching closely to decide whether to consider similar policies.  While we are saddened and outraged by what transpired last night, we will not stop fighting these horrible policies that work to destroy the very fabric of our society.

To all the parents, students, pastors, and concerned citizens in Stafford who submitted comments or spoke out last night, thank you for engaging in this critical battle! As long as this policy stands, this fight is not over.

Board of Health delays action on Abortion health and safety standards ... For Now!

Today the Virginia Board of Health decided to delay the process of watering down abortion center health and safety standards until its December meeting, in front of a noteworthy pro-abortion crowd.  This decision comes several months after The Family Foundation won an important case to undo the illegal regulatory changes made to the standards during Terry McAuliffe’s administration. Despite the large pro-abortion crowd in attendance, and heavy police presence, the Board delayed action pending a decision in the Falls Church Medical Center v. Oliver case recently heard in Federal District Court in May/June.

Our staff was at the meeting to speak on behalf of the women who are at severe risk if these regulations are overturned and the thousands of unborn lives tragically ended through abortion.

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While the Board deferred a vote on its proposed changesthe proposed regulations make dramatic alterations to all 38 regulatory sections of the chapter governing abortion facilities.  In fact, they go even further to prevent important and basic oversight of abortion facilities.  The proposed regulations elevate administrative convenience and profit above the health and safety of women seeking an abortion by replacing commonsense health and safety requirements with loosened standards that essentially free abortion providers from any accountability.

For several years, we’ve seen at least a thousand regulatory violations from inspection reports conducted in abortion facilities across Virginia. They have lifted the veil on just how careless, unsanitary and inhumane this industry truly is which endangers the lives of so many women.  One example is the Virginia Health Group, which was so bad that even Gov. McAuliffe's own Health Commissioner shut it down within hours of an inspection of the facility that was triggered by a patient complaint.  As you can see, these regulations help ensure some accountability by revealing the pervasive darkness of an industry that has proven to care more about profiting off of the vulnerably of women facing difficult life decisions.

At the very least, the women making such a terrible – often desperate or coerced - choice should be in a facility that meets basic safety standards, but the $1 billion abortion industry opposes even minimum infection prevention standards, inspection of equipment, and even record-keeping requirement.

We will continue to monitor the Board’s actions and expose how they do nothing but allow the abortion industry to continue to line their pockets with blood money from vulnerable women.

Important Back-to-School Reminders!

For many families across Virginia, this week marks the start of the 2019-2020 school year.  It’s exciting for parents to watch their kids begin a new grade level filled with all kinds of hopes and expectations.

In the midst of all the excitement, however, it’s critical that parents remain mindful of several issues that they and their children will encounter.  More each year it seems parents are bombarded with a host of policies that conflict with their family’s values or religious convictions, so it’s all the more important that you are aware of what these policies are in your school district.

Below are a few significant school policies that you should be aware of as your child enters this new school year.

1.      Family Life Education Opt-Out – At the start of each school year, parents have the opportunity and the legal right to review the school’s family life education (FLE) curriculum (i.e. “Sex Ed”) and decide if they want to “opt-out” their child from participating in this instruction.  FLE topics can be quite sensitive, and often include explicit sexual and graphic content. If you wish to opt your child out of FLE, make sure to get your school’s Opt-Out form, fill it out, sign it, and send it in. To find out what is being taught, look on the school district’s website or contact the school.

2.      Anti-bullying/Suicide content review Beginning this school year, parents now have the right to review any audio-visual materials containing graphic sexual or violent images used in any anti-bullying or suicide prevention lessons in public schools.  And just like with FLE, parents have the ability to exclude their child if they deem the materials too graphic.  Don’t forget to inquire about any anti-bullying/suicide content at your child’s school this year!

3.      Immunization requirements – Every school year, the list of public school immunization requirements seems to grow, and with that comes more chances for them to conflict with parental preferences.  Currently, a student attending a Virginia public school is required to have the immunizations listed on the Department of Health’s website here. However, not all vaccines are required, such as the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV). (For more information about this, please read the Focus on the Family statement here.) Additionally, the state Code provides for a religious exemption from ALL vaccines for students whose parents submit an affidavit to the school stating that the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with the student's religious tenets or practices. 

4.      Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policies – Are you aware of any “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) policies at your child’s school?  Does the possibility of a student of the opposite sex entering the bathroom or changing room with your child concern you?  Some school boards around Virginia have been implementing extreme nondiscrimination policies for students and staff by adding special (SOGI) protections.  In order to protect the safety and dignity or your child, it’s important that you are aware of any such SOGI policies that have been adopted by your local school board and how they impact your child.

These reminders are not meant to overwhelm you or diminish the excitement of the new school year, but rather to encourage you to remain active in your child’s school.  Our public schools should never be used as a laboratory for social engineering or become a place that is constantly challenging the rights of parents to direct the education or welfare of their children. They should be a safe place for students to enjoy the opportunity to learn and grow, develop long-lasting friendships, enjoy fun extra-curricular activities and prepare for their future, without all of the drama induced by radical ideologies.

We hope that all parents and children have a wonderful and successful 2019-2020 school year!   

It’s Women’s Equality Day…Because Women Already ARE Equal!

Yesterday was Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment. On August 26, 1920, the Secretary of State certified the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. It was an important moment in United States history that ensured women along with men had a voice in our democratic process.

In honor of “Women’s Equality Day,” Governor Northam illuminated the Governor’s mansion over the weekend with purple, gold and white lights.

VAratifyERA held a small rally yesterday on the steps of the Virginia Capital, followed by a “party” at the Governor’s mansion, to celebrate “Women’s Equality Day” and to officially kick-off their 2020 campaign to ratify the so-called Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

The Left is determined more than ever to make Virginia the 38th state to approve the ERA after failing ratification by one vote in the Virginia House of Representatives this year.  Last year, Illinois became the 37th state to formally approve the ERA, leaving ratification of the amendment and recognition under the U.S. Constitution only one state shy of the 38 needed.

The Family Foundation has long argued that ratification of the ERA is a moot issue because it failed to receive approval by the requisite number of states by the 1982 deadline, as ruled in the case NOW, Inc. v. Idaho.  Not only that, but the ERA is also a moot issue simply because in our current culture it is not needed.

While there are certainly women who experience inequitable treatment, these situations are nearly always instances where the culture needs to align with the law, not reasons to add more laws.  If properly brought to court under the dozens of laws, their situation should be rectified. It is unfortunate our society still devalues women in so many ways but Virginia laws do not.  In fact, most states like Virginia already have laws in place to address some of the real or perceived disparities between men and women, such as equal pay for equal work.

So, if basically everyone agrees that women and men should be, and are, equals under the law, you might ask why not just go ahead and pass the ERA, which simply states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”?

That’s because a closer examination of the ERA makes it clear that it has less to do with equality and more to do with making men and women the same, as well as enshrining abortion into the U.S. Constitution.  The reality is the ERA is a Trojan Horse intended to advance radical Left-wing objectives such as unrestricted taxpayer-funding of abortion and special legal rights based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”  Moreover, the language in ERA sets up the ability for liberal judges to interpret the term "sex" to mean something other than biological male and female, as numerous federal courts have recently begun to do with statutes with that term, resulting in special legal rights to people on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The direct effect of this has been to trample on religious liberty and conscience protections.

For more examples of the destructive outcomes of the ERA should it ever be ratified, read our blog here.

Groups like VAratifyERA are masking their effort to enshrine abortion into the Constitution and redefine the term “sex” into whatever satisfies their ideological hunger with a deceptive statement that seems innocent and reasonable.  Don’t be fooled or swayed by their tactics.

We don’t need a constitutional amendment to affirm something that is already true – that women are equal and deserving of all the rights and privileges under the Constitution of the United States.

How is this possible?

This week, Virginia politicians from both sides of the aisle and many in the media are trumpeting CNBC’s announcement that the Old Dominion is once again the “Best State for Business.” 

CNBC’s survey was based on criteria like, economy, infrastructure, quality of life, education, technology business friendliness, etc. 

But, according to many politicians – from former Governor Terry McAuliffe and current Governor Ralph Northam – to state Senators and Delegates of both political parties, and a host of special interests, quite frankly it should be impossible for Virginia to be the best state for business.

Why?

Well, according to these so-called “progressive” leaders, Virginia isn’t very “open and welcoming.”  You see, for the better part of the past decade, the media and political class have claimed that businesses and education leaders and technology gurus and everyone else it seems wouldn’t come to Virginia because the General Assembly hasn’t elevated “sexual orientation and gender identity” to protected classes.

Oh, and those anti-women “anti-abortion” laws are terrible for business, too.

Oops.

Of course, none of the rhetoric spouted by those claiming that Virginia’s economy suffers because the Commonwealth has chosen to minimally protect unborn children and religious liberty is true.  For the most part, low tax and regulation states are at or near the top of the “Best States for Business” list, while those with the most extreme pro-abortion and pro-LGBT laws tend to linger at or near the bottom.  Why? Because smart business leaders don’t base economic decisions on anything other than economic facts, not emotional hysteria (even Amazon decided to come to Virginia). 

This won’t stop the rhetoric, however, or the bills.  There’s little doubt that we’ll see Delegate Kathy Tran’s infamous abortion-at-any-point-through-birth bill again in 2020.  We’ll see the dozen or so bills elevating sexual behavior to special status in our laws, threatening religious liberty and making many religious small business owners left feeling rather, well, unwelcome. 

But the line will stay the same – if we don’t pass these bills the economy will suffer. 

Except it won’t.  Virginia’s economy will do just fine as long as taxes are relatively low and the regulatory environment is somewhat less crushing than neighboring states.  Businesses go where they can make money – which for most business owners is sort of the point. 

By the way, CNBC ranked New York state, which adopted its own version of Delegate Tran’s “welcome to everyone except babies” 27th. 

Our Team Has You Covered: Special Session, LGBTQ+ meetings, and more

News out of Richmond yesterday focused entirely on the General Assembly, which convened a rare Special Session on gun control at the call of the Governor in response to the deadly shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building on May 31. (Read our critique of the Governor's rhetoric in our blog entitled Why We Need More "Thoughts and Prayers") Realizing that this gathering was little more than a political exercise to boost the Governor’s party in November’s election, we used the opportunity to meet with as many legislators as possible to discuss other important pro-family issues.

The day was over as quickly as it started.  Leaders from both chambers sent the handful of bills introduced to be studied by the Virginia State Crime Commission, and moved to reconvene on November 18.

While some of our Policy team was at the Capitol for the Special Session, others were monitoring the Department of Health's presentation on "Virginia's LGBTQ+ Health Equity Symposium and Data Collection for LGBTQ Populations."

Yes, this is what our state government is busy doing! And we’re here to make sure that someone is watching, speaking, and acting on behalf of your values.

The Symposium overview, provided by the state's "Transgender Health Services Specialist", centered largely on recommendations for the state to change its medical processes, forms, and state employee training and policies to fully incorporate transgender ideology into state government. (See sample below.)

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It was clear from this meeting that our state government is seeking to eliminate what it believes are “social stigmas” because, according to them, that is the cause of higher levels of HIV, stress, anxiety and even clinical depression in those identifying as LGBTQ+. While its important to treat every person with the utmost dignity and respect and to help every person struggling with physical and mental health issues, it's dangerous of the Department of Health to overlook the reality of the negative health consequences directly associated with these lifestyles.

The Department of Health is also pursuing the same radical compelled speech that caused West Point high school teacher Peter Vlaming to get fired.  As the presenter of the study stated, "people need to use preferred pronouns, even if they're uncomfortable with it."  Here are some more troubling things we learned at the meeting:   

  • Planned Parenthood was touted for its services to LGBTQ+ patients

  • The Department of Health intends to implement questions involving gender identity, “sex assigned at birth”, and “preferred gender pronouns” into all its patient intake forms.

  • LGBTQ+ training needs to be done with all VDH staff, and possibly with all state employees.

  • The Governor is currently looking to hire a Director of Equity and Inclusion to implement all of the presenter's recommendations for implementing these policies throughout all state agencies.

Of course, any of these changes would infringe on many state employees’ deeply held religious and personal convictions. Commissioner Norman Oliver understands this and stated that to implement these recommendations would “require a cultural change within the state agencies" that he expected to take place in between one to two years.

There are so many important issues to stay on top of in our Commonwealth, and we are here working hard – often in several places at once – to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks as we seek to preserve and promote strong families. We appreciate your continued partnership and prayers.

These Important State Laws Take Effect Today

Every year on July 1st, hundreds of new changes to Virginia’s laws officially go into effect. Here’s a few The Family Foundation fought hard for and against that you may want to know:

TFF Supported

  • More educational options for parents and kids through expansion of the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit program (EISTC).The program has been a huge success in recent years and continues to enable more children in families who cannot otherwise afford private education to receive a private scholarship to use towards a qualifying private school. SB 1015 (R-Stanley) expanded this flagship school choice initiative to include pre-kindergarten.

  • More parental oversight and involvement regarding sensitive materials in public schools. HB 2107 (R-Ransone) provides parents the opportunity to review any audio-visual materials containing graphic sexual or violent images used in any anti-bullying or suicide prevention lessons in public schools, and the ability to exclude their child if they deem the materials too graphic.

  • More protection for property rights in eminent domain situations. SB 1256 (R-Ruff) creates an income tax subtraction for gain recognized by a taxpayer from a government’s taking of real property. Landowners should not have their property taken, only to be slapped with a new tax liability.

  • More parental authority regarding the delegation of temporary custody. HB 2542 (R-Byron) allows a parent or legal custodian of a minor to delegate temporary custody in limited circumstances for up to 180 days, with the assistance of a private organization, without government intrusion.

TFF Opposed

  • Expansion of assisted conception through surrogacy laws to remove any biological significance for parenthood. HB 1979 (D-Sullivan) allows non-married individuals with no biological connection to an embryo to contract with a surrogate mother to birth a baby for them. The negative consequences of this bill range from children growing up without any knowledge of one or both biological parents, no protections against “selective reduction” abortions, and no limitations on the proliferation of new lab-created human embryos. This recent article from The Federalist also gets at the fundamental problems with this kind of policy.

To see the full list of laws taking effect today, click here.

It's Official! (Come See It For Yourself)

It's Official! (Come See It For Yourself)

t’s official. We’ve finally moved into our new building!

But it’s not just any building. A mid-nineteenth century four-story Greek Revival historic town house tucked among city sky scrapers in downtown Richmond, buttressed by a significant rear add-on with additional space, accented with a large and fully-enclosed courtyard and three walk-out balconies, all just a block and a half away from the state Capitol. And only by God’s unforeseen but abundantly clear leading, coupled with the faithful partnership of supporters like you, we are now the owners

Case Closed. Decision Still to Come.

Yesterday, abortion industry and the private counsel hired to defend Virginia’s laws made their closing arguments in federal district court in Falls Church Medical Center v. Oliver, wrapping up a grueling two-week trial in which nearly all our state’s pro-life laws hang in the balance. My team and I, including our five new summer interns, were in the courtroom to witness every word.  

After failing year after year to pass legislation to achieve their ultimate goal of unfettered access to taxpayer-funded abortions performed by anyone in facilities with no oversight up until the moment of birth, the abortion industry turned to the courts – targeting Virginia to be its precedent-setting case in that goal. For a quick refresher on the overall case and some of what happened before and during the trial, be sure to look back at our blog posts. (“Surprise Miracle”, “Falls Church v. Oliver”, “The Plaintiffs Rest” and “Defense Makes Its Case”)

In yesterday’s closing statement, the lawyer for Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Whole Women’s Health gave frankly an overstated, over-confident, and oversimplified summary of the facts in this case and how the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents supposedly require the judge to totally throw out all of the following Virginia laws (some on the books since 1975):

-       “Window to the Womb" ultrasound law providing a woman the opportunity to view her ultrasound and hear the fetal heart tone if she wishes

-       Abortion informed consent materials

-       A 24-hour wait period after the ultrasound and prior to an abortion

-       All abortion center health and safety regulations

-       The requirement for 2nd trimester abortions to be done in hospitals, and

-       The requirement for having actual physicians perform the abortion procedure

Despite how reasonable these safeguards are for ensuring the health, safety, and informed consent of vulnerable women facing this permanent – and often conflicted – decision, the abortion industry has proven its willingness to sacrifice anything, and anyone, for the sake of money and power. It's quite revealing that the same industry that purports to be about women's health is doing everything it can to strip away things like health and safety standards, informed consent, and requirements that medical doctors be the ones to perform an invasive surgery. We pray that Judge Hudson sees right through the hollow (yet slick) legal arguments of the Plaintiffs. If his questions from the bench were any signal, we sense that on most of the issues involved, he does.

The attorney defending our laws kept her closing much more direct, succinct, and generally had solid legal arguments. The Defense’s closing highlighted the evidence throughout the trial, even brought forward by some of the Plaintiffs’ witnesses, that safety standards have greatly improved the facilities doing the invasive surgery of abortion, that ultrasound is a critical element of the abortion procedure, and that physicians are uniquely qualified to perform all types of abortion and deal with all potential complications.

Significantly, the Defense pointed out that the Plaintiffs did not put forward even a single Virginia woman of child-bearing age who could demonstrate any burden whatsoever in her ability to obtain an abortion as a result of these laws. “If there were such a woman,” said the Defense attorney, “surely the Plaintiffs, who perform abortions all across the Commonwealth every single day, would be able to provide one.” But they couldn’t. That is more than a little problematic for the Plaintiffs when the legal standard they must demonstrate is an “undue burden” on an actual woman pursuing abortion.

While some important points were omitted from her closing and several points were conceded unnecessarily (this was the Attorney General’s hired counsel, mind you), the attorney definitely put forward a laudable and even compelling defense of the laws. And that was encouraging.  

Now that the trial is over and all the documents and evidence are in, we are left only to pray for Judge Hudson’s wise discernment, his respect for our laws and the Constitution, and that he has a true appreciation for the gravity of his decision in terms of its impact on the lives and health of women, unborn children, federalism and the rule of law. Please join us in that prayer over the next several weeks.

Whatever the outcome of this case, The Family Foundation will remain ever-vigilant on behalf of Virginia families for the protection and promotion of every human life, and especially those most vulnerable among us. As soon as we learn of a decision in this case, we’ll let you know.

The Plaintiffs' Rest

Earlier this week, we told you how the abortion industry’s lawsuit challenging all of Virginia’s pro-life laws kicked off in what has been scheduled for a 2-week trial in federal court. The Plaintiffs continued their lineup of “expert” witnesses, including staff from Planned Parenthood and Whole Women’s Health.  Again, the plaintiffs and their witnesses spent much of the time avoiding anything that might reveal to the Judge or the media present in the courtroom that a human being was in the womb whose life is taken when these abortions occur.  Terms like “voluntary pregnancy interruption” replaced abortion in some exchanges.  Interruption usually implies something will resume later, except, apparently in this usage of the word.

Courtroom exchanges also revealed that the Hampton abortion clinic has no doctor on site and performs chemical abortions by telemedicine.  As described, a doctor advises a nurse by video conferencing, who then administers the abortion pill.  While we’ve known that there is no doctor practicing at this abortion facility, it was unknown how they were administering chemical abortions.  It has seemed that in the past, legislators have been under the impression that abortion was not happening by telemedicine, despite our concerns. 

Witnesses on the stand included the both Medical Director and CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and the founder of Whole Women’s Health, LLC.  Each of these individuals testified that routine biennial inspections are burdensome and unhelpful.  Thankfully, after much advocacy for no oversight, Judge Hudson asked the abortion staff in a very perplexed manner, “You’re not saying you want no oversight, right?” to which the abortion industry response was that they would still be governed by OSHA and CLIA.  OSHA regulations are designed simply to protect any business’ employees from safety risks, like construction site falls, etc.  CLIA regulations are specific requirements for handling laboratory test results, etc. Neither of these would guard against infection and ensure abortion complications are handled appropriately. 

Sadly, the CEO of VA League for Planned Parenthood (including several locations) assured the court that this entity alone had taken well over 50,000 lives just in the last 12 years.  Of course, it was not phrased in that manner.  As a mom, I realized that those were classmates and teammates of my four children, the oldest of whom is 12 years old.   It was likely friends and neighbors of mine, unaware of the support for their pregnancy, adoption or motherhood that was  available to them, who made the  decision to end those lives.  Heartbreaking.

The court also heard from Dr. Karen Remley, a former Commissioner of Health, who attempted to paint a picture of how the safety standards she helped put together with a group of doctors would have been valuable but that the process was corrupted by politics.  The problem with her argument (that hopefully the Judge recognizes) is that all regulations go through a political process.  Not all recommendations given by experts during the regulatory process are included in the final product when voted upon by the government entity making the final decision. This is not abnormal, but in fact, is practically guaranteed due to the lengthy regulatory process.  In many places, her testimony inadvertently helped the defense. Here are a few of Dr. Remley’s other notable statements:

  • She noted that, in forming the group of experts to give recommendations on standards, they had gotten the advice from the heads of the various medical school OBGYN departments. She highlighted how the McDonnell administration suggested she include Dr. John Seeds, then Chairman of the OBGYN department at VCU.  This was supposedly her evidence to show that the administration forced a doctor onto the panel who was likely initially excluded because he is known to be in favor of the preservation of unborn life. 

  • She repeatedly confirmed that many of the components of the safety standards are “medically optimal.”  These included the CDC guidelines for infectious disease control and life-saving equipment.  Her concern wasn’t directed at unnecessary safety guidelines, but simply that all outpatient surgery does not receive equal oversight.

  • As she called the regulation of physicians’ offices the “wild west” and admitted that the state knows nothing about the safety of those practices, you could almost hear the Plaintiff lawyers gasp, since this is their desired level of standards  they need to convince the Judge is sufficient.  She did note that the building construction guidelines were not part of the original recommendations, but omitted the fact that they were added because the Code of Virginia has a law requiring them. 

  • She sited that, in addition to the building code requirements, the doctor panel never recommended that an abortion facility have a Transfer Agreement with a hospital, which was included in the Board’s final recommendations.  Unfortunately, she grossly mischaracterized that safety requirement as the physician having to be “on staff” at a hospital, which is not the same as having  Admitting Privileges. The Commissioner is fully aware that the safety standards are meant to govern the facility, and that they cannot and do not govern the doctor.  Regardless of her misrepresentation, she must not have been aware that part of the previous Abortionist’s testimony about handling complications included the fact that if it were severe enough, they would transport the patient to a hospital.  I suspect a Judge would naturally conclude that such a connection between facility and hospital would be valuable in that case. 

There was also considerable focus on the 24-hour delay and the ultrasound requirement, and the supposed burden these place on women seeking abortions.  The Plaintiffs even brought in a bioethicist to suggest that even merely offering a woman the option to view her ultrasound or to hear her baby’s heartbeat – as required by law - violated the woman’s autonomy and decision-making capability.  Yes, you read that right. You just cannot make this stuff up. According to this “expert” bioethicist, less knowledge for a woman equals greater autonomy. So much for “a woman’s choice.”

The trial so far has clearly placed the abortion industry in the role of Chicken Little, effectively claiming“the sky is falling” with each and every requirement, no matter how minor.  According to the Plaintiffs, the regulations are overly burdensome, the safety standards are unachievable, the waiting period is unhelpful and unfair, and women will be unable travel to obtain their abortion, etc., etc..  One wonders what nominal requirement the abortion industry would consider not be an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion. I can think of one very effective way the government could ensure women’s easier access to abortion: slash the industry’s prices for abortions in half. Somehow I’m certain Planned Parenthood would draw a line on that one.

Now the Plaintiff’s case has been fully presented. Next week it will be the Defense’s turn to argue their side, and hopefully make a compelling case for upholding these important protections for health, safety, and life.   We will be in the courtroom following this case closely, so stay tuned.    

Falls Church v. Oliver

Today at 9:00 a.m. I joined others from my team at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Some of us were inside to watch the proceedings while others were outside praying for a righteous decision. 

Judge Henry E. Hudson is hearing a vitally important lawsuit against all of our pro-life laws. This lawsuit, Falls Church Medical Center, LLC. v. Oliver, was brought by Planned Parenthood and abortion allies to take away all of our pro-life laws. Here are some of the laws that the abortion industry wants to strike down with a court decree:

  • Our "Window to the Womb" ultrasound law,

  • Our law requiring full informed consent before abortions,

  • The law requiring a 24 hour waiting period before an abortion,

  • All of our health and safety regulations,

  • Our law limiting 2nd Trimester abortions to hospitals only; and

  • The law, which has been on the books since 1975, stating that only licensed physicians are allowed to do abortions!

Ultimately the pro-abortion industry wants to remove every pro-life law we have ever passed! And, having failed to do so in the legislature, they are turning to the courts.

Judge Hudson will be hearing witnesses and testimony in this case for the next two weeks - concluding on May 31st. The Family Foundation will be there to monitor every day of the proceedings.

It’s hard to fully describe what it’s like to sit in a courtroom and listen to an abortionist, who testifies to having done thousands of abortions, dispassionately describe what he does for a living, complete with seemingly unending euphemisms to describe abortion rather than facts.  If one heard Governor Northam describe infanticide on the radio, it’s comparable, except for hours on end.

Much of the day was listening to the testimony and cross examination of an Oregon abortionist Dr. Mark Nichols.  Dr. Nichols went to great lengths to claim nearly all abortion is virtually without complication.  The difficulty with his presentation is that in Virginia, despite years of presenting legislation to the Virginia General Assembly to collect complication data on abortion, short of what is presented as a result of the newly adopted safety inspections, our Commonwealth simply has not been collecting complications.  For decades it has been the case that if a woman has a perforated uterus and presents herself at the hospital, it will be filed as a hemorrhaging, not an abortion complication.  Even after regulations adopted in 2011 required some complication reporting, inspections reveal that complications are still not being reported.  Dr. Nichols reported that even uterus perforations are often handled onsite rather than transferring a patient to a hospital.  We know that is because the industry does everything possible to conceal complications, including not sending women to the hospital when then need that level of repair after a botched abortion.      

Abortionist Nichols gave testimony that he does a thorough job ensuring the informed consent of women, emphasizing that he finds women fully competent to understand the decision they are making.  However, when drilled about his use of ultrasound in that informed consent process, he acknowledged that he does deny women the right to see their ultrasound, despite their request because he knows what’s best for them. 

In a moment that shocked no one except Rachel Maddow, Dr. Nichols did affirm his use of ultrasound in each and every abortion he performs because it results in a safer abortion.  If one watched the news or late-night television during the passage of our Window to the Womb law in 2012, one would have walked away with the impression that ultrasounds are simply a tool of “state sponsored rape.”  Seriously.  I wish I were kidding.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of today’s discussion was the notion that this doctor could provide women with any facts that would allow her to make an informed consent when he couldn’t use any correct terms to speak about a woman carrying a child.  With the rare exception, he never used the word “baby” and only rarely the term “fetus.” Most of his entire time on the stand only referred to “pregnancies”, “pregnancy tissue” and “products of conception.” 

At one point it was clear the defense attorney wanted him to acknowledge the process by which an abortionist ensures they have done a complete abortion, which is to put the child’s body parts back together and determine they are all accounted for.  Rather than owning this known process, the abortionist simply said that he checks the womb to ensure the “products of conception” are gone.  When asked what the “products of conception” were, he simply responded with the “fetus and placenta.”  He even managed to describe needing bigger tools in later week abortions because the “pregnancy is bigger.”  In English, rather than abortion-speak, the child ‘s skull is bigger but apparently, despite acting as if abortion is the same as removing a wort, the abortionist does not appear to have the boldness to actually use real words to reference the human body being torn apart.

Much of the testimony centered around the various types of abortion:

1)    Chemical - take two pills and induce a process like a miscarriage, including a tremendous amount of bleeding
2)    Suction - envision a vacuum used to remove the child
3)    Dilation and evacuation (D & E) - a woman is dilated and the child is dismembered and then removed.
4)    Induction –  the child is shot into the heart with a lethal drug, labor is induced and a whole dead child delivered.  If the child is not delivered whole, post-induction dismemberment will occur.

The abortionist steered away from using words like “vacuum”, “dismemberment” or “delivery.”  However, it is critical to note that he testified that he does suction abortions until 15 weeks, D & E until 22-24 weeks and induction abortion or what has been coined “heart attack” abortion after 24 weeks.  Given this is the case, petitioners are filing to move 2nd trimester (through 27 weeks) abortions from a hospital to an abortion center and remove the physician requirement.  If the Judge were to strike down these laws, one has to ask if the law would then allow induction abortions in a center with a health worker who is not a doctor, like a certified midwife delivering the dead baby?  Remember, Virginia’s laws are not structured around the types of procedures, they are structured around gestational ages of development. For Judge Hudson to rule by procedure, he would need to essentially rewrite the law for the General Assembly.

Our hope is that the ten-day trial highlights for Judge Hudson the over 500 health and safety violations in the Virginia centers over the last couple of years including blood on the equipment, expired medications and untrained staff.  It would be hard to read what we’ve read, inspections that are readily available to the public, and the Judge conclude that this industry needs less oversight. 

I will be in the court as often as I can be over the course of this trial. Please keep this case in your prayers.

Religious Liberty On the Line!

The federal “Equality Act” (H.R. 5) is moving through the House of Representatives at warp speed, and is scheduled to be voted on this week!

CLICK HERE to contact your Members of Congress today, and urge them to OPPOSE H.R. 5, the Equality Act.   

You can read more about the devastating impacts of the bill here on our blog, or watch this video with testimonials of people whose lives have been wrecked by similar state laws.

Last week I told you that this bill is one of the most dangerous pieces of federal legislation that I have seen in my lifetime, a comment that I do not make flippantly. And the more we learn about the potential impact of this legislation, the more my concerns grow.

The bill’s threats to religious liberty, free speech, churches and faith-based hospitals are well-established, but we are learning more about how this bill will actually cause greater harm to people.  According to Dr. Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician and executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, H.R. 5 would force physicians to prescribe toxic hormones and drugs for adults and even children that can produce severe side effects, or even to perform serious medical procedures, all to “change” a person’s physical features to conform to their self-prescribed gender identity.

The so-called Equality Act would eliminate all parental authority related to the training and well-being of their children by prohibiting parents from ever interfering with a child’s access to transgender medical procedures.  Sadly, this is no longer a hypothetical. Recently, parents in Ohio, which has a similar state law, had their parental rights terminated for failing to approve puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for their adolescent child.

We’ve learned that the so-called Equality Act would also provide that “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” cannot be treated any differently than other physical conditions.  This means all restrictions to abortion would be torn down, and anybody or any group who doesn’t want to fund or commit an abortion at any stage will be subject to punishment.

The reality is that this type of radical legislation has already permeated many state legislatures, and now the House is applying a full-court press to pass the so-called Equality Act at the federal level. 

We cannot allow the government to push people with strong religious convictions into compromising their beliefs, or to usurp the prerogatives – and constitutional rights – of parents to guide the education and health of their children.

CLICK HERE to contact your Members of Congress today, and urge them to OPPOSE H.R. 5, the Equality Act.  You can also reach your Congressman and Senators at (202) 224-3121.  Don’t wait, the House plans to vote on this bill this week!

The Governor Couldn't Resist!

The state budget process is finally over, and with it came some big wins and also disappointments.  Last week Governor Northam submitted his final actions on the budget to the House of Delegates. They included leaving in place the federal “Hyde Amendment” language, which ensures taxpayers will not be forced to pay for abortions of babies with supposed disabilities, and vetoing a modification to the existing Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) program that would have stopped nearly $2 million from being funneled to the abortion industry.

For more details about these budget provisions, you can read about them here on our blog.

We cannot overstate how important of a win it is for the protection of pre-born babies to have the Hyde Amendment language included in the budget, especially given the complete disregard for human life that was on full display during session this year.  This achievement is the result of strong legislators willing to stand firm for the protection of pre-born babies, as well as the unwavering resolve of The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Virginia Society for Human Life (VSHL) to push for these types of protections year after year.

In the end, the Governor did not accept the Hyde Amendment language willingly, since he was actually prohibited by the Virginia Constitution from vetoing that particular type of budget amendment. Of course, he couldn’t let the Hyde language stand without offering this hypocritical comment indirectly criticizing pro-life conservatives: "the General Assembly's action is cruel and out of touch with the difficult reality some families face."   Remember, this is the same Governor who tried to explain that leaving a baby on a table after a failed abortion while the parents and physician had a discussion over whether or not the baby should live or die, was somehow morally acceptable.

The Governor’s actions also demonstrated his total commitment to Planned Parenthood by vetoing an amendment introduced by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12, Glen Allen) to limit “LARC” funds to only the purchase of IUD devices.  His veto, which will continue to allow millions of dollars in grants being allocated to the abortion industry, was simply a ‘wink and a nod’ to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to say “I’ve still got your back.” 

All of this goes to show how elections have consequences, and how important it is for voters to be aware of the values that their legislators espouse.  That’s why The Family Foundation Action works so hard to create a General Assembly Report Card to show you exactly how legislators voted on specific legislation that has a significant impact on families.

To order the 2018-2019 Report Cards for your church or community group, click HERE.