Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists

Miraculous Success: Life And Conscience Protected

It was nothing short of a miracle yesterday afternoon: The General Assembly passed Governor Bob McDonnell's pro-life amendment to HB 1900. The amendment prohibits health insurance plans that are part of federal health insurance exchanges required by Obamacare from covering abortion services except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother. With the passage of this amendment, pro-life Virginians will no longer be required to violate their consciences and fund the unethical destruction of human life. To put it precisely, as one legislator who voted for the amendment said:

I truly believe that this amendment will save more lives than perhaps anything we've ever done.

The amendment's passage was a tale more convoluted than the typical legislative labyrynth, complete with procedural moves unfamiliar to most, dramatic back room conversations and mistakes that turned into miracles. Suffice it to say, God was at work — mightily. He alone deserves the credit for this success. We'll tell the complete and detailed insider story in a later post.

Regardless of how legislators may feel about Obamacare health insurance exchanges, the vote on this amendment was solely about the taxpayer funding of abortion. Many who voted for this amendment oppose the concept of exchanges overall. Please note when checking how your legislator voted, that a vote for this pro-life amendment cannot be considered a vote against health care freedom. Some type of exchange must be created, by law, so this was to make the best of a bad situation.

Although many deserve thanks for this important victory, we would like to specifically thank Governor McDonnell for introducing the amendment, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling for ruling the amendment germane (click links for contact information), the 20 senators and 55 delegates who voted for the amendment (click links for names), national pro-life organizations for their assistance, such as the Susan B. Anthony List, and local pro-life groups — especially the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Society for Human Life, and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists — for joining us in our advocacy on this amendment at Mr. Jefferson's capitol yesterday.

Conscience and life were protected today. Please thank God first, but secondly those above who deserve our gratitude for their principled stand for life. The complete details and inside story tomorrow.

 

Pro-Lifers Rally, Board Adopts Regulations!

The Virginia Board of Health Friday voted to adopt strong abortion center safety standards after a long day of competing protests, debate and tension. An estimated crowd of 500 people lined up at the building where the board met, evenly divided between pro-life Virginians and abortion supporters. It was a stark contrast to the June meeting where more than 100 abortion protestors dominated the day and where the board voted to water down abortion center regulations to exempt existing centers from important building standards required by the Code of Virginia. Because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify those regulations — they didn't meet the demands of the code — the board had to revisit the issue Friday. For weeks both pro-life and pro-abortion groups encouraged people to attend, and hundreds did, in addition to several dozen uniformed and plain clothes police who where there to ensure security.

The day began early, as Family Foundation staff began lining up outside the building at 6 a.m. to ensure we would be in the meeting room to testify. Only 100 seats were available in the room, and only those in the room could testify. After going through security checks, including metal detectors, we settled into the room for a long day.

The difference between this meeting and the one in June was remarkable. That day, the room was dominated by radical pro-abortion protestors and, quite honestly, it was a very spiritually dark day. Friday was radically different. In the room were dozens of pro-life supporters, including several pastors. Those who attended both meetings could feel the difference in the atmosphere. A few pastors who attended our Pastors Summit in Richmond Thursday were there, as were several from the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists.

We could feel the prayers of pastors and pro-life Virginians! I cannot express enough of my gratitude for all of you who attended today's meeting, or who prayed for us. The support was incredible, and I have no doubt it made an impact on the results. During a year where elected officials and others have been viciously attacked by the abortion industry and media, and abortion supporters have mobilized in large numbers, pro-life Virginians needed to show up and prove again that we are the dominant voice in Virginia . . . and show up we did!

Public testimony was extended to one hour (normally 20 minutes) in an attempt to accommodate the crowd. In my testimony, I told the board that after the uncovering last week of more than 80 health and safety violations in nine abortion centers, the industry, which has claimed for years to be safe and in no need of oversight, was not in a position to be trusted and therefore should have no say in how it is regulated. Several other pro-life organizations also testified including the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, Family Research Council and the Rutherford Institute. Others attending included the Virginia Society for Human Life, Students For LifeAmericans United for Life and Concerned Women for America Virginia. Our special thanks to Alliance Defending Freedom, which sent a letter to members earlier this week to clarify the board's legal authority and to other groups who encouraged the turnout.

In addition, Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) testified that the General Assembly did not intend to exempt any abortion centers. In 2011, Delegate Byron amended SB 924 to include abortion centers. She said that during the legislative debate, the intent was clear and that the bill was passed by chambers controlled by different parties. Her testimony was crucial to clarify some misunderstanding on the board over whether the General Assembly wanted existing abortion centers to be "grandfathered in" without the building standards. We so appreciate Delegate Byron's willingness to once again stand up for life in a hostile atmosphere, as she did time and again during this year's General Assembly.

Representatives of the abortion industry continued their pattern of deception. Incredibly, one person testified that the industry “supports regulations” but just opposed the building standards. The same individual has testified several years in a row at the General Assembly against bills that would have required only licensing, inspections and emergency equipment!

They also attacked The Family Foundation's release this week of inspection records showing widespread health and safety violations, saying that the centers inspected had received their licenses anyway and that the violations were minor. We don't consider a bloody patient table minor. We don't consider a freezer two-thirds filled with fetal remains and blood minor! But they do. The fact is, however, that those centers were not licensed until after they submitted plans to correct the violations and those centers are now subject to unannounced inspections. For years, they fought against the very inspections they now say they support and that uncovered the problems listed.

But the primary target of the abortion industry was, and still is, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. They continued their assault because he made the decision to uphold the law of Virginia and not certify the regulations in June. Of course, I'm sure they'd rather pick on the AG and cry "politics" instead of having to answer to questions about bloody patient tables, frozen fetal remains and untrained staffs.

The board, however, was not fooled. By an overwhelming vote of 13-2 it rejected several more attempts by one board member to water down the regulations and then voted to adopt the standards by the same vote.

While a major victory, the process to finalize these standards is not finished. They must go through several more steps in the next several months, including two lengthy public comment periods. It is crucial that pro-life Virginians make their voice heard once again during that time. If you spoke or wanted to speak Friday, please write your comments down and hold on to them for submission during the public comment period. We will provide ample notice.

Thanks again to everyone who attended Friday's meeting, testified or prayed. A special thank you to those post-abortive women who attended, some speaking publicly for the first time. We are so grateful and encouraged by your support, and I know the Board of Health members were as well. To get a feel for what it was like at the meeting, please click here for a series of photos.

Pro-life Virginians were not out manned at the crucial Board of Health Meeting Friday. For more scenes from the historic vote, click here or the image above.

Religious Freedom In Virginia Adoption Protected, Sexual Orientation Not

Late this afternoon, the Virginia Board of Social Services voted 7-2 to accept new regulations for adoption agencies that do not include formerly proposed non-discrimination protections for homosexuals. This is a victory for religious liberty and means that faith-based adoption agencies can continue serving Virginia's children and families without being forced to violate their faith principles. The previously proposed regulations that included sexual behavior protections were replaced by Commissioner of Social Services Martin Brown after it came to light that adding sexual orientation to protected status would have been in conflict with existing federal and state law, and the Virginia Marriage Amendment. The attorney general's office issued a letter to the board informing it of the conflict and, acting on that advice, as well as public comment, the commissioner made the appropriate changes.

At the board meeting, representatives from The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities of Arlington, the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, America World Adoption and Bethany Christian Services testified against the original proposal that would have forced faith-based adoption agencies to either ignore their faith principles regarding marriage and sexual behavior or stop serving families and children. Organizations that serve children and families provided particularly compelling testimony. Andrew Brown, of America World Adoption, said that making sexual behavior a protected class would decrease the number of loving families available to adopt wanted, parentless children by forcing faith-based adoption agencies out of business.

However, the vote did not come without debate, beginning this morning with a failed motion to postpone the vote until August and ending late today with arguments by proponents of the sexual orientation language that they had not had enough time to review the new regulations. Representatives of Equality Virginia, the Gay Community Center of Richmond, Mothers and Others, and other groups argued that faith-based organizations should not be allowed to "discriminate" by following their beliefs. But homosexuals in Virginia can adopt — they must go through state or non-faith-based private agencies.

The most vocal proponent of homosexual protections was social services board member Trudy Brisendine, who made the argument that she had not had time to review the new regulations. This despite the fact that the previous proposal had been initiated by outgoing Governor Tim Kaine in December of 2009 and that regulations had been open for public comment since January. She asked, embarrassingly, at one point how a "child placing agency" is defined, requiring the board's legal counsel to point out that the definition was on page two of the proposal. It is certainly concerning that someone who has the power to vote on regulations that oversee “child placing agencies” doesn't know how they are defined or had not read the proposal thoroughly to know the term was defined — and at the beginning of the proposal no less. While her lack of preparation most likely won't make the news, imagine if that question came from a pro-family board member.

We thank the seven board members who voted correctly, the McDonnell administration and the attorney general for their attention to this matter, Commissioner Brown, and our pro-family partners who have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks on this important issue.

Thank Senators, Lt. Governor Bolling For Voting For Abortion Center Regulations!

The day after last week's historic pro-life victory in the General Assembly (see Richmond Times-Dispatch), Planned Parenthood and its abortion industry allies rallied in Richmond to decry the government's "attack on women." Those senators who voted in favor of abortion center safety regulations, and Lt. Governor Bill Bolling who broke the tie in the Virginia Senate, now are likely targets of their action. We need to make sure that those who stood for life and safety receive the thanks they deserve. So please contact Lt. Governor Bolling and the senators who voted in favor of improving the health and safety standards at Virginia's abortion centers (SB 924) and thank them for their vote (see below)! These elected officials deserve our gratitude for their action and political courage for voting to regulate abortion centers after years of stiff resistance and pressure by liberal and pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL. 

Before too long, after more than two decades of hiding behind a veil of secrecy, Virginia's abortion centers will have to meet basic sanitary and safety standards. While the media is framing the legislation as "forcing abortion clinics to become hospitals," the facts are entirely different. Virginia has several categories of hospitals (inpatient, psychiatric, rehabilitation, outpatient surgical, etc.). These categories of hospitals are subject to different regulations. They are not required to meet the standards of general hospitals. Instead, they are regulated according to their specialty. Likewise, abortion centers now will be categorized as a type of hospital and the Board of Health will create regulations that are appropriate.

We hope that you are savoring last week's victory. At our weekly General Assembly session devotion Friday, we were reminded that God is sovereign and directs those in power. While we know that a lot of hard work went into this legislative victory, and many legislators and elected officials took a brave stand, we are well aware that our God is deserving of all the praise for this historic vote!

We also acknowledge our good friends at the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists for their help in getting this legislation passed. Both organizations worked tirelessly on this and a host of other issues this session. Their partnership is vital to our, and the pro-life movement's, success.

To thank your senator who voted for SB 924 and Lt. Governor Bill Bolling for breaking the tie vote, click here!

Thanking Our Pro-Life Allies For The Abortion Funding Ban Victory!

We hope you are still celebrating with us over the passage of the budget amendment that significantly reduces taxpayer funding for elective abortions in Virginia (Amendment #91)! This is a long-awaited milestone in our journey toward Virginia becoming the most pro-life state in the nation. While Family Foundation staff worked tirelessly for weeks to encourage Governor Bob McDonnell to introduce this pro-life amendment and then for the General Assembly to sustain it, we would be remiss if we did not recognize those who aided us in this fight. Please join us in thanking these important people in the pro-life movement.

First, if Governor Bob McDonnell had not introduced this elective low-income abortion amendment, there would be nothing to celebrate today. His stand on this amendment is commendable. Please click here to send him an e-mail of thanks or call him at 804-786-2211.

Even with the governor's introduction of the amendment, its passage would have been tenuous had there been no one to articulate the amendment's merits and stand in its defense on the Senate floor. Never one to back down from a fight, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) was the only senator willing to verbally support the amendment on the floor. Senator Obenshain's reasoned defense was crucial to the amendment’s passage and the retention of key swing votes. Please send Senator Obenshain an email of thanks at district26@senate.virginia.gov or call him at 540-437-1451.

Without votes, success is unattainable. While all votes were equally important, special thanks go to Senators Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville) who, despite intense pressure from their party and Planned Parenthood/NARAL to tow the party line, voted their conscience and made a courageous stand for life. Additionally, thanks to all the delegates (64) and senators (20) of both parties who voted for this important pro-life amendment.

Special thanks goes to the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginia Society for Human Life and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists for working side by side with us in the days leading up to this important vote and for their tireless efforts yesterday, remaining with us and never leaving the capitol grounds from early morning until the end. Iron sharpens iron and we are thankful for their support. Along those lines, we would be remiss if we did not thank all of you who contacted the governor and key legislators throughout the past month. The governor and legislators listened — your voice was crucial to success.

But ultimately, thanks be to God for this miraculous legislative victory! God, like he did with Gideon’s army, whittled down the numbers on the ground to an illogical amount — the absences of Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest) — so that in the end, success could only be attributed to the proper source — Him. Join us today in giving thanks to Him for this protection of life after decades of waiting.