pro-life bills

The Lieutenant Governor Jumble And The Silent, But Crucial, Issue

It's a jumble out there. Maybe a jungle, too, with about 10,000 delegates crammed in the Richmond Coliseum tomorrow at the Republican Party of Virginia Convention (not to mention circulating tonight through the city's downtown at no less than 12 parties by candidates and GOP and public interest organizations). Never has there been a less predictable campaign for a party's nomination for the commonwealth's number two spot. But never has there been so much at stake with the Virginia Senate split at 20-20. (There was one somewhat similar in 1985, as I commented on here.) What to make of it all and the seven candidate jumble? A lot of organizations and web sites, who otherwise wouldn't be considered too important, have either made themselves so, or have been granted such status because in a crowded and unpredictable field, where no one can accurately gauge delegate preferences until people actually show up — and who knows who will or even can show up for an entire day and at least some evening? — candidates have to find a way to gain traction. Thus, what has been a generally clean campaign (nothing like the rear-end exam the Left will launch at the nominee starting Sunday) has become something of a He lied, She lied, They're all playing dirty affair.

The crossfire has been amusing. Candidate 1 criticizes Candidates 4 and 5 through robocalls, and maybe Candidate 3 via mail. Candidate 2 attacks Candidate 1 for that, but goes after Candidate 7. Candidate 6 claims Candidate 4 is attacking him through a front group, while Candidate 5 says certain web sites and blogs are in Candidate 2's back pocket. But in person, they all seem to get along. That was the case two weeks ago at their last debate, at Benedictine College Prep in Richmond, sponsored by the Richmond City Republican Committee and other Central Virginia GOP units. (It drew, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 250 people. A Democrat debate several days later, at the completely contrasting Richmond Gay Center, only drew about 150 according to the same source.) In the holding room where they were briefed by the host committee and moderator Scott Lee (of WRVA-AM and Bearing Drift/Score Radio Network), they joked with each other and exchanged campaign anecdotes. The potential fireworks during the debate itself were limited, with each touting him- or herself. Perhaps the "offenses" being felt are coming from over zealous supporters instead?

News was made at the debate, though. For the first time ever, an obscure process issue which punches well above its weight in importance, was addressed. After a warm up question about recently read books, they were asked what reform to bring accountability to the office would they work for. After all, so many of their campaign promises are really desires, because so much of what they want to do has almost nothing to do within the powers of the office of lieutenant governor. It's a question I've put to a few of them individually, though phrased differently. Some had no clue. They all seem to know about it now.

Call it the crucial, but silent, issue, because not many are talking about it and the media isn't reporting it. It's about the power of the LG to assign bills to committee, similar to the House Speaker's power. What good is it to be the presiding officer of a legislative chamber if your have little clout? Decades ago, during the day of one party (i.e., Democrat) rule, the lieutenant governor was a liberal populist named Henry Howell. The majority thought even he was too liberal to have that authority, and stripped it away, giving it to the unelected, unaccountable senate clerk, in cooperation with the majority leader. It's one of the reasons the Senate has been the graveyard of many good bills and reforms, especially pro-life bills, where Democrat and Republican majorities have sent them to unfavorable committees that do not have a natural connection to the bills. (For example, coercive abortion is always referred to the "Committee of Death," the Education and Health Committee, rather than the Courts of Justice Committee as it is in the House.) Restoring that power to the Senate's presiding officer will make for a more responsive and accountable process. After all, what LG isnt' already running for the top job?

Pete Snyder, Senator Steve Martin, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Corey Stewart all brought up bill referral power as a critical reform to governing the split chamber and to advance conservative legislation that many Republican senators would just as soon see fail. Martin, Lingamfelter and Stewart even expounded on the idea and expanded upon it.

Snyder was assertive, while Stewart was assertive and passionate about ending the Senate's "graveyard" reputation by assigning bills to their rightful committees. Even though the LG has never had the power to assign members to committees as does the Speaker, Stewart went so far as to say he would use his clout as the tie-breaking vote to influence who sits on what committees (a power left to the party leaders in the Senate). Former Senator Jeanmarie Davis gave a lukewarm "I don't disagree with it" answer. Susan Stimpson and E.W. Jackson never mentioned it.

There's an old expression in Virginia politics: If you want to change Virginia, then change the Virginia Senate. Sometimes, it's not the headline grabbing issues that make the difference, just as it can be a little thing no one suspects that wins a campaign. In this case, the two may have merged. While this just reform may not happen over night, it now is part of the conversation, whereas previously, no one had ever heard of it From now on, Republicans candidates will feel the necessity  to campaign on it until it finally happens.

What The Media Calls Mainstream . . .

The face of Planned Parenthood in Virginia: Today was its lobby day at the General Assembly and this was the reaction this morning of one of its activists (and several behind her, see the raised arm) after the Senate Education and Health Committee reported out two pro-life bills and one to make the HPV vaccine an opt-in. Several Planned Parenthood activists were escorted out of the General Assembly Building by Capitol Police in a scene more reminiscent of Chicago or Wisconsin, than Virginia.

A rare glimpse by the mainstream media at the pro-abortion lobby's fury. (Photo is from Bob Brown of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. See article here.)

Senate Kills Life Bills, Passes Threats To Family

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

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

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

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

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

Life Bills In Senate Education And Health Committee Thursday!

It's that time of session again. Thursday, the Senate Education and Health Committee will vote on multiple pro-life bills. This is the committee that has blocked meaningful pro-life legislation for years. Despite the history, we still want to make sure every member of that committee knows where their constituents stand on this issue — particularly since it’s an election year.  Please contact the senators on this committee (click here for committee contact links) and urge them to support SB 1202, SB 1207/SB1378, SB1217, and SB 1435. These pro-life bills could radically change the culture of life in our Commonwealth:

SB 1202: Abortion Funding Opt-Out for ObamaCare ObamaCare puts states in charge of their own health insurance exchanges for individuals and small businesses. If enacted today, Virginia could potentially include in its exchange health insurance plans that cover elective abortion.  Pro-family citizens opposed to abortion would be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life. SB 1202, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), is a bill that would prevent insurance plans in the Virginia health insurance exchange from providing abortion coverage. Five other states have taken this step so far, and several more are considering doing so, while Pennsylvania and Maryland are allowing abortion coverage.   SB 1435: Ultrasound/Informed Consent SB 1435, patroned by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Botetourt), updates Virginia's informed consent law with modern technology. It would require a woman to have an ultrasound and the option of viewing it prior to an abortion. Currently, a woman is given a pamphlet with generic pictures of fetal development. This bill would give the woman specific information about her child and allow her to make a truly informed decision. It also would help prevent mistaking the gestational age of the unborn child that can lead to illegal abortions. Two years ago, this bill died in this committee with a vote of 11-4.   SB 1378 and SB 1207: Wrongful Death of the Unborn SB 1207, patroned by Senator Obenshain, and SB 1378, patroned by Senator Bill Stanley (R-19, Danville), are bills that would provide protection (civil recourse) for the unborn in cases where they lose their life due to the negligence of another. While Virginia's code does include a fetal homicide law, the same unborn life, taken without intention or premeditation, elicits no civil penalty. Improving our civil law to recognize fetal manslaughter is essential. An unborn life is not only of value when it is wanted by the mother or when its life is intentionally taken by another.   SB 1217: Coerced Abortion SB 1217, patroned by Senator Smith, provides that any person who forces or coerces a pregnant female of any age to have an abortion against her will is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Shockingly, this type of coercion is not currently criminalized. Given that homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women according to a study in the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, Virginia needs to do more to protect women and their wanted unborn children. Women should not be forced to abort to avoid violence. Last year, this bill died in this committee by a vote of 10-5.    Be a voice for the voiceless and let these senators know that you will be watching how they vote with the expectation that they will vote yes for life this Thursday.

Not Everyone Appreciates Becoming A Star: Opponents Make Clear Opposition To Our Taping Committee Hearings

This, our first-ever guest post, was written by Suzanne Nichols, our General Assembly intern:

Videotaping committees and subcommittees this General Assembly has met with an array of responses. Many representatives have personally thanked us and some even requested we tape their bills. Delegate Kenny Alexander (D-89, Norfolk) was pleased to have made it onto our blog. Others have requested copies of the videos.

Then you have the extreme from the other side. Our first incident occurred when a woman, opposing one of our pro-life bills, told us not to tape her testimony after realizing we were from The Family Foundation. When I told her we were, since it was a public hearing, she said that we had a bad reputation for video taping. Word must travel fast because this was just the second or third time we had taped anything.

One afternoon in Senate Courts of Justice, a clerk asked us if it was "necessary to tape" a particular bill and seemed confused that we were not from the press. I guess it is not necessary, but holding people accountable for their words is worth the ire it raises. In Senate Finance last week, the Capitol Police eyed our camera and then asked Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) if we were intimidating him to which he replied, "No."

One afternoon, while in the GAB's 6th floor cafeteria, I ran into the woman who had not wanted her testimony on video. After some friendly banter, I reminded her I was the one from The Family Foundation who had recorded her prior testimony. Her demeanor changed instantly. She informed me that she was deeply disturbed and "did not think this information should be getting out there." This presented a fine opportunity to let her know why we have started filming and that we do, indeed, place the videos on our blog.

Our opponents do not want you watching how our bills fare or the nature of the testimony they bring against them. On the other hand, we think you should know the processes and outcomes here in Richmond.

Suzanne Nichols, from Harrisonburg, is a 2008 graduate of Grove City College in Pennsylvania where she received a B.A. in History. During session, she has ably researched and written on a variety of issues. She also, to the consternation of many, taped the telling committee videos you've seen on this blog (see her work at our YouTube page). When she told me the story, I immediately knew we had out first ever guest blog post. — The admin.

Tomorrow, In Ed & Health

Tomorrow, the infamous Senate Education and Health Committee will vote on two pro-life measures. While the committee has seen these bills in past years and defeated them, we will once again bring these reasonable pro-life bills to it for consideration. HB 2579, patroned by Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) is a bill that would provide a woman contemplating abortion the option to view her ultrasound prior to an abortion. This is merely an update to the informed consent laws already on the books in Virginia. Currently, a woman is offered a pamphlet with generic pictures showing gestational age; however, an ultrasound would give the woman information specific to her child.

Furthermore, an ultrasound provides for a "safer" abortion in that the gestational age of the child is known, not guessed. After 13 weeks gestation, an abortion must be performed in a hospital — an ultrasound can determine the age. HB 2579, therefore, provides for medical as well as legal responsibility, safety for the mother, and truly informed consent.

While HB 2579 passed the House with a vote of 62-36, it is likely to face increased scrutiny in the Senate committee coined the "graveyard" and the "Committe of Death" for its infamous reputation for killing pro-life bills. However, with your prayers and action, anything is possible. Please urge these Senators to vote for HB 2579 and, with that vote, make a pro-woman, pro-child decision.

Another pro-life bill, HB 2634, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge) also will be before the committee. This important piece of legislation would add information about the sensitivity to pain of unborn children to informed consent materials. This bill passed the House of Delegates, 64-34.

There is overwhelming medical evidence which suggest that an unborn baby does experience the discomfort we refer to as pain. This being the case there is an issue on which all sides of the abortion debate could join together. It's common sense and it's compassionate — provide information to the mother that lets her know her unborn child can feel pain, and allow her the option of having anesthesia administered to her unborn child undergoing an abortion procedure. 

As straightforward and sympathetic as this might seem, there are forces right here in the Commonwealth who are in opposition to such a suggestion. The good news is you can make your voice heard louder than theirs and once again stand up for those who can't speak for themselves.

Although these bills will meet a tough challenge you can make a difference by contacting members of the Senate Education and Health Committee (click here for contact information) now and letting them know you want them to support this compassionate measure.