Virginia Catholic Conference

Virginians To Rally For Marriage Tuesday Outside Federal Court Of Appeals, Prominent Marriage Defenders To Speak At Bell Tower

Several national marriage leaders will be featured at The Family Foundation’s Stand and Pray for Marriage Rally, Tuesday, May 13 at 9:30 a.m. at the Bell Tower in Capitol Square. There also will be marriage supporters rallying outside the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building beginning at 9:00 a.m., during the time the case regarding Virginia's Marriage Amendment will be heard by the court. Click here to see the new promotional video for the rally and then please share it. There will be an impressive array of speakers at the Bell Tower rally. They include:

Brian Brown, National Organization for Marriage: Brown has been president of the National Organization for Marriage, the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to the protection of marriage and the faith communities that sustain it, since 2011. Brown is widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost advocates for preserving marriage. Brown led NOM's work in California helping lead that state's marriage amendment passage.

Eric Teetsel, Manhattan Declaration: Teetsel is executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, a "call of Christian conscience" on life, marriage and religious liberty. Founded by Charles W. Colson in 2009, the Manhattan Declaration has been signed by hundreds of prominent Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical leaders, and more than 540,000 others. Teetsel is responsible for ensuring that the movement continues to inform the public debate over life, marriage, and religious freedom and serve the broader coalition of organizations working on these fundamental issues.

Josh Dugger, Family Research Council Action: Dugger, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, is the executive director of the Family Research Council Action. He was homeschooled and graduated from high school at the age of 16. In 1998, his father was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives where he served two terms. Following his father's unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate, national media coverage focused on the Duggars' extraordinary family. A decade later the reality series, now called 19 Kids & Counting!, is the longest running reality show on the TLC network.

Dean Nelson, Frederick Douglass Foundation: Nelson is the executive director for the Network of Politically Active Christians and an ordained minister with Wellington Boone Ministries. He is the chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, the former vice president of CareNet, and the former national director of Global Outreach Campus Ministries. He serves on the board of directors for the Providence Foundation and the Virginia Christian Alliance, and is a graduate of the Coverdell Leadership Institute.

Jeff Caruso, Virginia Catholic Conference: Caruso is the founding director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, established by Diocese of Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde and Diocese of Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, to advance the mutual public policy interests of the commonwealth’s two Catholic dioceses. Originally from Maryland, Mr. Caruso spent two years practicing law in his native state and then more than six years as one of three associate directors at the Maryland Catholic Conference. In January 2005, he became the first executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference.

Victoria Cobb, The Family Foundation of Virginia: As president of The Family Foundation of Virginia, Cobb is responsible for the leadership and direction of the commonwealth's largest, oldest and most influential pro-family organization. In her role she maintains the vision and mission of the organization while managing all areas of operations. She also serves as the organization's spokesperson and is regularly in demand by the media as a speaker and commentator on family issues. She has been with the pro-family organization since 2000 and has served as president since 2004.

The Family Foundation of Virginia is a non-profit organization whose mission is to apply faith and founding principles to politics and culture. The Family Foundation researches the issues being debated in Richmond and provides analysis and ideas to both citizens and elected officials. The Family Foundation is Virginia’s oldest and largest pro-family public policy organization.

New Video: Stand For Marriage Rally Gaining Momentum

The Stand and Pray for Marriage Rally is right around the corner (click here for details). Watch our new promotional video, please share it, and plan to be in downtown Richmond this Tuesday, May 13, at 8:30 a.m. The appeal for the Virginia Marriage Amendment will be heard that day and we need you to be there to stand with us for God's design for marriage.

 The Stand for Marriage Rally will send an important message the Virginians believe marriage is ordained to be between one man and one woman. 

To make things easier for those outside of Richmond interested in attending, we are providing bus transportation to the rally. If you live in one of the following areas and want a bus ride to the capital for the Stand and Pray for Marriage Rally, click here to reserve a seat.

♦ Winchester (with stops in Warrenton and Fredericksburg)

♦ Harrisonburg (with stops in Staunton and Charlottesville)

♦ Norfolk (with a stop in Newport News/York)

There are also vans leaving from several churches around the state. Here is a partial list with contact information:

♦ Leaving from Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown at 1004 Yorktown Road and stopping at York River Baptist Church in James City County. Contact: Ann Robeson at 757-719-6787.

♦ Leaving from Lighthouse Free Will Baptist Church, 942 Burks Hill Road in Bedford. Contact: Pastor E. Larry Ross at 540-587-8962.

♦ Leaving from Brookhill Wesleyan Church in Goode. Contact: Janet Robey at 434-401-8852. There is a $10 charge that includes the van ride and breakfast.

If you are driving to Richmond yourself, click here for a map of downtown Richmond parking lots.

A terrific lineup of speakers will address the rally. You don't want to miss this exciting day as we proclaim to Virginia and beyond that marriage matters and God's design of one man and one woman for life is the definition of marriage and cannot be changed. Our speakers include:

Join Brian S. Brown, President of The National Organization for Marriage; Dean Nelson, Chairman of The Frederick Douglass Foundation; Eric Teetsel, Executive Director of The Manhattan Declaration; Josh Duggar, Executive Director of The Family Research Council Action; Jeff Caruso, Executive Director, Virginia Catholic Conference; The Family Foundation's own President, Victoria Cobb; and others as we Stand and Pray for the union of one man and one woman as the definition of marriage. If you are interested in volunteering to help with logistics on the day of the event, please e-mail Marie at marie@familyfoundation.org.

♦ What: Stand and Pray for Marriage Rally

♦ When: Tuesday, May 13, 8:30 a.m.

♦ Where: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, 1100 East Main Street, Richmond

Victory For Pregnant Inmates And Unborn Children

Currently in Virginia, if a woman is incarcerated and goes into labor she may be restrained during the whole childbirth experience. Over the past few years, The Family Foundation has worked with a diverse coalition of organizations, including the Virginia Catholic Conference, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood (believe it or not), and Prison Fellowship to prohibit the unnecessary restraint of pregnant inmates. However, this chapter soon will come to a close as the proposed regulations restricting restraints on pregnant inmates is one step closer to reality and will go into effect March 7 after one final public posting. After years of advocacy and waiting, Virginia finally will see proper precautions taken for the health and safety of the pregnant mother and respect for the life of the unborn child. Celebrating this victory, Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47, Arlington), the patron of legislation over the years which would have had similar affect, said:

I commend the Board of Corrections for its strong endorsement prohibiting the restraint of pregnant inmates. All stakeholders worked in good faith to reach consensus and the proposed regulations will ensure the protection of the mother, her unborn child, and law enforcement. No pregnant inmate should ever be unnecessarily restrained.

(Interesting that the delegate, who is pro-abortion, used the term "unborn child." Hopefully, he will come around on that issue one day.)

Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), chairman of the House subcommittee where this issue has previously been heard, said:

I applaud the Board's action to put appropriate guidelines in place regarding the restraint of pregnant inmates. No inmate should be unnecessarily restrained, and the approved regulations balance our concerns for the safety of the unborn child, the pregnant mother, law enforcement, and the public. The development of these regulations was prolonged, but all parties are to be commended for their hard work and commitment to reaching this balanced compromise. I look forward to their swift implementation.

The Family Foundation would like to thank the coalition for its determined work resulting in protection for pregnant mothers and sanctity for unborn life.

McAuliffe Dealt Setback: Senate Upholds Conscience Protection!

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

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

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

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

T-Mac Chili eating

Governor McAuliffe will have to chew on this legislative defeat.

Hundreds Attend Virginia Stands For Life Rally, Send Huge Message To General Assembly! #VAStands4Life14

Hundreds of pro-life Virginians traveled across the commonwealth and braved cold temperatures to send the General Assembly a clear message: Virginians oppose the abhorrence of abortion and expect lawmakers to uphold the sanctity of life (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). Keynote speaker Lila Rose vividly illustrated that message and the particularly heinous nature of abortion from her unique perspective as founder of Live Action, a new media pro-life investigative organization that goes undercover to expose the abortion industry's corruption and abuse. Ms. Rose founded Live Action at age 15 and has had Planned Parenthood on the run ever since. Later, she spoke to dozens of pastors at a Pastors For Family Values luncheon.

Joining her in speaking to the attendees were emcee Olivia Gans Turner of American Victims of Abortion; Susan Null, executive director of the Harrisonburg Pregnancy Center;  and Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb. The Reverend Bob Collins, founding pastor of World Outreach Worship Center, prayed the invocation. Afterward, attendees visited their delegates and senators to encourage them to support pro-life legislation, maintain the gains made the last three years, and oppose actions that would make abortion more available.

Hundreds of pro-life Virginians turned out today at Mr. Jefferson's capitol to support the sanctity of human Life. (Photo courtesy Richmond Times-Dispatch.)

Here is the official statement of the 14 partner organizations, including The Family Foundation, that hosted the 2014 Virginia Stands for Life Gathering (#VAStands4Life14):

This morning hundreds of pro-life Virginians came together to stand united in support of the sanctity of human life and to remind elected officials and the public that the pro-life movement in Virginia is thriving. The women and men at the event celebrated the 16 percent drop in Virginia's abortion rate over the past three years (a 22 percent drop among Virginia women), while hoping to encourage Virginia's elected officials to remain steadfast in their support of protective pro-life laws and legislation.

Several national and state pro-life organizations united together for today’s rally, bringing their supporters to Richmond to encourage reasonable and protective measures that seek to protect the lives of unborn children, the elderly and those with disabilities. With a new incoming administration, the organizers of today's peaceful event encouraged our elected officials to stand strong in the face of attempts to erode the significant recent pro-life gains that protect innocent unborn life and women.

All of the organizations and their constituents who were represented in this rally are committed to continuing to defend and advance the cause of unborn life, access to adoption, and the protection of human life. We will continue to voice the truth about the value of human life. As more Americans become pro-life every day, we are optimistic about the future for the unborn and the vulnerable in America and Virginia.   

Embedded image permalink

The Fab Four. Virginia's leading pro-life women, from left: Virginia Podboy of the Virginia Catholic Conference; Lila Rose of Live Action; TFF's Victoria Cobb; and Olivia Gans Turner of National Right To Life's American Victims of Abortion.

A Perspective That Spans The Tiber To The James

It's about time! Finally, after years of encouragement to do so, today our friends at the Virginia Catholic Conference added a blog to its social media mix. (See its first post, by Associate Director Michael Lewis, on the adoption by the General Assembly of Governor Bob McDonnell's "Veto Session" "Hyde amendment" that bans taxpayer funded abortions in the Obamacare insurance exhchange). It's a good thing, too. There are few more passionately dedicated to the causes of Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty  than our colleagues at the VCC. They are an invaluable ally in the culture wars not only inside Mr. Jefferson's Capitol, but well beyond the gates of Capitol Square. It's an intelligent bunch, as well, and we look forward to their perspective on the crucial issues of the day. According to its announcement of the blog's launch:

Our goal for "From the Tiber to the James" is to provide engaging, thought-provoking posts — respectful of our reader’s busy lives — about why and how we do the work we do, and how our readers can become more involved in advocacy on behalf of the common good.

Attuned readers will not miss the symbolism of the blog’s name: our Faith traces its past, present and future to the Vatican on the banks of the Tiber River. Our daily work — living in the public square — takes us to Virginia’s capital, on the shores of the James.

We look forward to what From the Tiber to the James will add to the public policy debate in the already thriving Virginia Blogosphere. Another culturally conservative voice can always be useful but, in this case, we're confident it will far exceed that basic standard.

The fight to win souls precedes any legislative victory. In this new age of instant digital media, where information is spread at the speed of a few thumb presses, it's important for advocacy organizations to arm themselves with as many assets as possible — and our side has been behind. It's about more than "spreading the word" on Facebook and Twitter (as important as that is). After all, there must be compelling content to spread on Facebook and Twitter. So, it's really about thoughtful, grounded, rational perspective based in something considerably larger than human vanity that resonates even with hearts of stone well before the yeas and nays consistently affirm our foundational principles. 

Congratulations to the Virginia Catholic Conference. We hope you visit From The Tiber To The James as often as we will.

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.

 

This Friday Is Deadline To Submit Abortion Center Comments To Board Of Health!

The deadline for online comments on the proposed Board of Health safety standards for abortion centers is this Friday, March 29, at 11:59 p.m. We encourage you to to do your part, if you have not already, to make your voice heard to the Board of Health to ensure the abortion center safety standards are made permanent. If you haven't already, please submit your comments before the online public forum closes. If you have, please share and forward this link to as many pro-life friends as possible through e-mail or your social media sites.

Click here to visit the Virginia Board of Health's Online Townhall. It is easy and take little time to submit your comments.

Our friends at the Virginia Catholic Conference have more information here, including bullet points on the issue and a sample letter. 

It only takes a few minutes to compose and submit comments online. For those who could not make it to the public forums in Richmond and Alexandria earlier this month, this is the ideal method for making your voice heard. A few minutes of your time can make a difference in a generational switch in policy to benefit the unborn and the safety of women who make the unfortunate choice of having an abortion. The other side is mobilized and submitting comments. It is essential that pro-life Virginians make their voices heard as well in this convenient, yet very effective way.

After filing your comments, please consider attending the Board of Health meeting in Richmond on Friday, April 12, where it will vote on whether to adopt the current abortion center safety standards permanently. Pro-life Virginians must demonstrate strength in numbers, both online and in person. The meeting will be at the Virginia Department of Health 2nd Floor Conference Center, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond. It will begin at 9:00 a.m. Due to limited space inside the meeting room, those who wish to attend are highly encouraged to arrive by 7:00.

The safety standards, which improve upon the emergency temporary standards that have been in place for more than a year, will continue to protect Virginia women who use abortion centers. Health inspections of these facilities, a feature of the current  temporary standards, have uncovered hundreds of violations since they  have been in place — demonstrating that the commonwealth's abortion industry cannot self-regulate itself. Permanent standards will ensure abortion centers' accountability for deficiencies.

If you plan to attend the Board of Health meeting, please e-mail Roger Pogge at roger@familyfoundation.org or call (804) 343-oo10.

My Life Is Worth Living

I write this with mixed emotions. On one hand, I am pleased to announce that efforts to repeal the updated informed consent law that allows a mother to view the image of her unborn child prior to deciding to have an abortion; to overturn abortion center safety standards; and to redefine "birth control" to include abortifacients, were thwarted on 8-7 party line votes this morning in the Senate Education and Health Committee. Even earlier in the morning, a House sub-committee defeated an attempt to repeal the safety standards  on a unanimous, bipartisan vote. However, the Senate committee also killed SB 826, which would have eliminated state funding for abortions of children with disabilities, 8-7 as well. My heart grieves that the policy of the commonwealth will remain a policy that denies the intrinsic worth of every life, no matter the challenges they may or may not face.

First and foremost, The Family Foundation would like to extend its utmost gratitude to Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa) for his bravery and impeccable defense of life through his willingness to patron and actively advocate on behalf of SB 826. Make sure his courage and sacrifice do not go unnoticed. Please contact Senator Garrett (district22@senate.virginia.gov) to express your thanks for his principled stand despite dissuasion from those both outside and within his party.

Parents of children with disabilities, a perinatal nurse, representatives from pro-life organizations (including The Family Foundation), and a lobbyist for the Virginia Catholic Conference who, although diagnosed with cerebral palsy, defied all predictions and now lives life to the fullest, testified on behalf of SB 826. The Catholic Conference lobbyist boldly challenged members of the committee to tell him that his life is one not worth living! One father, who attended with his adopted daughter who was born without limbs, testified about his adopted son, George. Born without arms, George has become an accomplished guitar, cello and piano player, and has played for bands with national acclaim, including the Goo Goo Dolls.

George, who would qualify under current law to be aborted with taxpayer funds, proves that he is not "incompatible with life." Click here to view a moving video of George's family — many of whom would qualify to be aborted with taxpayer money under the current law. The perinatal nurse spoke to her experience of providing palliative care to the unborn and newly born, and the healing that even a few hours of life of a severely disabled newborn brings to a hurting family.

The opposition then stood up and made claims that abortion is the "compassionate choice." It was unconscionable on the heels of such moving, emotional testimony from disabled children, adoptive parents, and a perinatal nurse. In an unfortunate end to the debate, Senator Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake), bowing to political pressure, joined all seven Democrats to defeat the bill.

The  committee then considered the bill to repeal the updated informed consent law. This legislation was passed last year to allow women the opportunity to see a picture of their unborn child prior to making a life-altering decision. While ultrasounds were protocol prior to the legislation (the abortion industry even admits it), abortionists were hiding the picture from women to prevent the possibility of women changing their minds, reducing profit. This window into the womb is powerful and, no matter the choice of a woman, it allows her a more informed choice and reduces regret. Ultimately, the ultrasound addition to informed consent is about requiring an abortionist to turn the screen. The Family Foundation testified to the importance of this law. Abortion activists, Planned Parenthood, the Virginia chapter of NOW, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the ACLU, and the Medical Society of Virginia testified in favor of repealing the ultrasound law. However, the committee was not convinced and defeated it.

During the abortion center safety debate, the abortion industry lined up speakers praising abortion centers and the "good work" they do. One man, an OB-GYN, testified on behalf of the abortion industry and praised the safety of the abortion procedure and stated that he was unaware of any abortion complications — a fascinating proclamation since emergency responders have arrived to at least two abortion centers in Virginia in the very recent past, and abortion center licensure inspections report at least four complications during abortion procedures.

A woman who testified is an employee at A Capital Women's Health Clinic (an abortion center in Richmond). She wore a t-shirt that read, "Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been keeping an eye on your vagina, so we're keeping an eye on him." After she pleaded for repeal of the regulations (based on false claims), Senator Garrett questioned her about the specific deficiencies found at her center and whether or not she believed those deficiencies constituted "safety and health" for women. The deficiencies included that the sponge used to clean instruments is only changed once per week; and three of nine employees have access to controlled substances, yet are not licensed by the Board of Pharmacy.

The woman did not provide sufficient explanations , but instead diverted to another portion of the bill in an attempt to distract from the truth — abortion facilities are not focused on the health and safety of women. Chris Freund testified for The Family Foundation, reporting the results of the Virginia abortion center inspections: bloody procedure tables, unsterilized and blood splattered equipment, untrained staff and more — more than 100 violations in only 20 abortion centers, even though the inspections were announced in advance! He also noted that the same year the bill enabling the regulations passed, this same committee defeated a bill that only required an inspection, a license and emergency life saving equipment. He also noted the lack of credibility of pro-abortion advocates who now claim to support inspections when they so vigorously opposed them for years.

While we are disappointed by the failure of the committee to acknowledge the value of life and pass SB 826, The Family Foundation is encouraged by the common sense of the committee to block the repeal of the update to the informed consent law and abortion center safety regulations. The Family Foundation will continue to support life, no matter the worth others may place on that life. Again, please contact Senator Tom Garrett (district22@senate.virginia.gov) and express your sincere thanks for his courage today.

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.

Board Of Health Adopts Abortion Center Safety Standards 13-2!

This afternoon the Virginia Board of Health adopted new, permanent abortion center safety standards that include important building codes for all abortion centers. In June, the Board voted to exclude existing abortion centers from building standards. But today, in a whopping 13-2  bipartisan vote, it reversed that decision. Four members appointed by former Governor Tim Kaine voted for the amendment, two voted no; all nine members appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell voted for it. Before the final vote on the amendment to the June version of the safety standards, the Board heard and debated three substitute amendments. Each was defeated 13-2. Predictably, after the final vote, several moments of chaos erupted when pro-abortion advocates stood up and screamed, chanted and harassed Board members. They were escorted out of the building by police, who were out in force. (The Washington Post documents some of the craziness, here.)

Pro-life Virginians turned out in great numbers at the meeting in western Henrico County. That made a huge difference in the outcome. We will send a complete report of today's events later. Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb released this statement:

We are pleased that the Board wasn't fooled by the abortion industry's distractions from the real issue of abortion centers in Virginia found with bloody patient tables, unsanitized conditions and untrained staffs. An industry that has such widespread failure to protect the health of women should have no say in how it is regulated. Virginia's women are better off after today's vote.

The hysterical claims of the abortion industry that today's vote denies access to health care are simply untrue. Today's decision simply requires the industry to clean up its act. These centers can continue to offer any other service they provide even it they can't meet these reasonable guidelines. They simply have to stop performing surgery unless they meet these standards.

One of our many great allies, the Virginia Catholic Conference, issued this statement, through its Executive Director Jeff Caruso:

Today’s debate and resounding vote once again affirms that it is a matter of common sense that the abortion industry be subject to reasonable regulations. Abortion is not health care because it ends lives rather than healing them, but the abortion industry must meet clear safety standards if it is allowed to operate under the guise of health care. Today’s vote is a huge step forward.

The Board-approved safety standards, which replace a temporary emergency version as part of a 2011 law, now proceed to executive branch review. After that, they will be open to another comment period before the Board takes a final vote next year.

Sign language: Police made sure people standing in line to get inside the Board of Health meeting behaved. While there was no verbal taunting, signs voiced people's opinions and clearly showed their disregard for life and creation.

"Compromise"

Language is of utter importance in life. It is how we convey to family, friends, co-workers and everyone else everything from the mundane but necessary to entertaining stories to important tasks at work to essential words of life and love to those special to us. Words do mean things. It is no different in a political and cultural context. How words are conveyed motivate, inspire and convince minds to points of view. But it's a lot different if words that have been understood to mean a thing certain, that have a standard essence can be distorted are redefined. It changes the entire debate, which is exactly what the Left wants, because it can't get what it wants in a straightforward debate. It recognizes that America is a center-right nation and the only way to advance its agenda is to transform the meanings of well understood and traditional terms.

"Marriage" is the most recent and prominent example. It is desperately trying to change what historically and culturally is universally recognized as a union between one man and one woman to devalue the foundation of civilization itself. But not only is the redefinition of words necessary for the adoption of the Left's ideas, it is the precursor to enforcing its intolerance.

It isn't only words of immense cultural importance, such as "Marriage." No word is too unimportant for the Left to redefine — it also has it in for such seemingly innocuous words such "compromise." That is the word the Obama administration used when it said it was changing its authoritarian Obamacare mandate that religious institutions provide contraception and abortion insurance coverage for their employees in contravention of their religious beliefs and First Amendment rights, to a new authoritarian mandate, with different wording, that left the slimmest of exceptions to avoid providing for such insurance.

The "compromise" stated that not institutions with a religious-only mission could avoid the mandate — presumably, the churches themselves. But the federal government would be the arbiter of that — religion defined by the government. (Separation of church and state, anyone? The hypocritical Left.) However, institutions administered by churches, such as hospitals and schools, would not be allowed to exempt themselves from the mandate.

Some "compromise." First, there is no compromise. The policy is virtually the same. Secondly, to compromise, it takes more than one party. But the Catholic Church, whose Bishops by and large endorsed Obamacare with what it thought was conscience clause and Hyde Amendment-type protections, and other concerned organizations, nor their Congressional allies, were brought in by the White House for discussions. It was a "compromise" with itself to provide misleading cover for the policy aims it knows are unacceptable.

That's why yesterday, 43 Catholic colleges and organizations, some of which already said they will cease providing health insurance or shut down the vital services they provide, filed a lawsuit against the administration (see Jill Stanek's in-depth report here). (By the way, some of these institutions previously announced they will end health care coverage because they can't afford the exorbitant rate increases affected by Obamacare. Obamacare — if it doesn't get you by increased costs, it will get you by authoritarian mandate.)

There's more information about the lawsuit here, from The Virginia Catholic Conference and here, from the Catholic News Service.

Religious liberty has never been a favorite of the Left. How can it be? The Church stands against moral relativism, the basis for modern liberalism. There are no standards or absolutes according the Left. That is, until, it redefines "standards" and "absolutes."

Governor McDonnell Signs Religious Liberty Protections

Governor Bob McDonnell yesterday signed into law one of The Family Foundation's highest legislative priorities for 2012 — conscience protections for faith-based child placement agencies (SB 349 and HB 189). With the governor's signature the bill becomes law on July 1. The law provides strong, explicit conscience protections for adoption and foster care agencies, ensuring those agencies cannot be forced to violate their beliefs, nor punished for following them when placing children. It also means that birthparents and prospective adoptive parents can continue to choose agencies that share their values.

Please click here to thank Governor McDonnell for signing the legislation.

Also, please send a note of thanks to the patrons of the legislation. Both Senator Jeff McWaters (R-8, Virginia Beach) and Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) withstood the hysteria of the homosexual lobby, its defenders in the legislature and their bullying tactics to see this legislation through. They deserve a great deal of appreciation for standing firm during a difficult battle — one where opponents attempted dozens of amendments that would have watered down the bill and used misleading rhetoric to describe the legislation. These are not easy battles to fight, and legislators who are willing to stand tall and carry these important pro-family bills must receive our gratitude (not only now, but during the session, as well, when the heat is the hottest). It's not easy to pass a bill of this magnitude, much less in its first year, but 93 out of the General Assembly's 140 legislators voted for legislation.

Click here to send a thank you note to Senator McWaters (SB 349).

Click here to send a thank you note to Delegate Gilbert (HB 189).

Faith-based child placement agencies do incredible work helping children and families, and have done so for decades.  Unfortunately, because of these ministries' belief that children should have both a mom and a dad, homosexual activists unsuccessfully tried to shut them down last year through the state's regulatory process. This tremendous victory for religious freedom comes as we witness the Obama administration's unprecedented attack on the free exercise of faith in the public square and, in fact, is forcing religious institutions into actions contrary to their beliefs. As a result of this legislation, Virginia has shielded regulations with a stature and will be one of only two states to provide conscience protections for faith-based child placement agencies. We hope that our victory will serve as a model for other states.

We also would like to express our appreciation to our friends at the Virginia Catholic Conference for their tremendous advocacy on this issue, as well as leaders from numerous faith-based organizations across Virginia who came to Richmond multiple times to testify, strategize and provide wise counsel regarding their marvelous work.

Governor McDonnell's signing of this important legislation is a tremendous victory for religious liberty and an affirmation of the critical role faith-based organizations play in providing hope and security for thousands of children and families in Virginia. The governor and the General Assembly have recognized the importance of ensuring these agencies continue to do the marvelous work they have done for decades.

Regardless of the assertions of opponents, this legislation does not in any way change current law regarding who can adopt in Virginia; it simply confirms that faith-based agencies will not be discriminated against by the state simply for acting according to their faith principles. While the media will likely parrot the false claims of legislators and opponents to this new law, the truth is that this bill simply protects the status quo. We thank Governor McDonnell for his support of this legislation throughout the process and for signing it into law (click here to send him a note of thanks).

 

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!

Ask The House Not To Fund Failed Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Two years ago, we partnered with the Virginia Catholic Conference to hammer out an agreement with the biotech community to ensure that state funded research performed in Virginia would not involve embryonic stem cells or aborted fetuses.  The clause was added to all legislation involving biotech research in Virginia, thus protecting citizens of the Commonwealth from subsidizing unethical research. In 2010, the same agreement stood.  Now, it's 2011 and the debate over the pro-life amendment is once again taking place.   There are several bills this year originating from both chambers that would provide research and development tax credits to biotech companies. In order to prevent the funding of unethical research, each and every bill must include the pro-life amendment. The House Finance Committee added an amendment in line with the 2009 and 2010 pro-life amendment to one of these bills (HB 1447). Now, the amended bill will be voted on by the full House of Delegates tomorrow.   The Family Foundation and our pro-life partners at the Catholic Conference firmly believe that Virginia taxpayers should not be asked to pay for or subsidize research that involves the destruction of human embryos or the use of aborted fetuses (see position paper here and our recently completed study, Do No Harm, here). Not only is such research unethical, embryonic stem cell research has been a complete failure. That is the reason researchers cannot attract private investment and is looking for your tax dollars to subsidize their failed research — no one will pour money into a failure. So researchers have turned to (who else?) — the government — to subsidize failure. If we are going to subsidize research in Virginia, it should be in adult stem cell research, which is producing real results — real science providing real hope and real cures.   It is crucial that your delegate hear from you by tomorrow morning before the floor session begins. Legislators need to hear that the funding of life-destroying research will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth. Contact your delegate now and urge him or her to cast a vote in acknowledgment of the sanctity of human life (click here for contact information or click here to find out who your delegate is).

Fighting "Designer Information" About The Taxpayer Funded Abortion Amendment

Since Wednesday night's historic victory for life, opponents have embarked on their typical rant and have relentlessly fashioned, as my colleague Chris commented upon, their own "Designer Information" to sow hysteria into the body politic. What else can they do? Polling data for decades demonstrates Americans do not want their tax dollars to pay for other people's abortions. (Don't liberals always say "abortion is the most private and personal decision a woman can make"? If so, why should public dollars — money of people who disapprove of the act — be used?) Beside the point of logic, according to the left on message boards and blogs, the sky is falling. So, from Jeff Caruso, the Executive Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, here's a bit of truth to set the record straight from an e-mailed statement:

Its effect is to eliminate the vast majority of Virginia's publicly subsidized abortions (that is, those done under a general health rationale which has never received General Assembly approval). Over the last four years, these state-funded, health-related abortions have been performed at an alarming rate of one every three days. With the Governor's amendment now securely fastened to the budget, many unborn lives can be saved, and state taxpayers who oppose financing life-ending practices have a greater measure of conscience protection.

Helping also, was our own Victoria Cobb, in this report from WTVR-TV/CBS6 in Richmond:

 

Designer Information can't overcome the truth and neither did it overcome the will of the General Assembly Wednesday.

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.

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.

Education Freedom = Racism? Some Senate Dems Say Yes, Others Remain Silent

I’ve been working for The Family Foundation for over a decade and thought I’d seen it all, but this morning’s display by several members of the Senate Finance Committee while debating a school choice bill went far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-78, Henrico) presented HB 599, a bill that would provide a tax credit for donations to private school scholarship programs. After several organizations, including The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference, a private schools association and a Richmond Jewish school, spoke in support of the bill, the committee took over. From there, the normal decorum of the Senate vanished into a cloud of pure anger.

The hostility of several Democrat members of the Finance Committee to parents and education freedom went on full display. I cannot with words adequately describe what then took place. But you don’t have to take my word for it — we have the entire shameful sequence on video (see our YouTube channel as well)! Here is the entire committee hearing in its entirety:

Part 1, Delegate Massie's Presentation:

Common sense stuff from Delegate Massie and a host of expert witnesses.

Part 2,  Supporting Statements Continue:

An eloquent, passionate, personal and intellectual presentation by Chesapeake resident Alberta Wilson.

Part 3, Finance Staff — No Fiscal Impact And The Outrage Begins:

Senator Howell should know the answer before she calls the witness!

Part 4, More Race Cards, Conclusion and Vote:

Senator Miller: This bill is akin to "selling people" but she'd still vote for it once public schools are fully funded!

In addition to all of this, Senator Henry Marsh (D-16, Richmond) criticized the bill without reading it: He accused the bill of subsidizing parents who send their children to private schools, but the bill plainly states the student must currently be enrolled in public schools to be eligible for the scholarships! I urge you to take the time to watch these short videos. I know you will be as dismayed as I was sitting there watching.

In a nutshell, opponents to the bill implied over and over that efforts to provide education freedom for low and moderate-income families is racially motivated. Without actually making the claim it was clear what they were saying. The harsh tone and rhetoric on display was simply appalling. Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that the children who are suffering most from poor government schools are African-American children in urban areas. It is private schools in those areas that offer true hope for children who otherwise have little chance at success. In fact, one of the most compelling testimonies in favor of the bill came from an African-American woman, Alberta Wilson, a champion of school choice!

Question: Do Senators Colgan, Reynolds and Houck, who also voted to kill the bill, agree with their Democrat colleagues' assessment that school choice is essentially racist?

After watching the videos, ask them yourselves:

Senator Charles Colgan: district29@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7529

Senator Roscoe Reynolds: district20@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7520

Senator Edd Houck: district17@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7517

This morning’s antics are emblematic of the philosophical divide between the political class in Richmond and families. But the anger displayed also is indicative that these legislators are beginning to feel the heat! Just two years ago, school choice bills didn’t even register a procedural motion in Senate Finance. Today, they generate heated responses.

I’ll say it again as I’ve said before — school choice is coming to Virginia! It might not be this year, it might not be next year, but it is coming. Families are demanding it. Watch the video so that you can see exactly whom it is that stands in the way of freedom.

You might not hear much about this in the Mainstream Media, although the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot mentions it toward the end of this article. But that's why we and the New Media are here. And, we'd love to hear from you, too. Let us know what your impressions of the committee hearing are.