Defending Human LifeJan 22, 2018
On Friday, in honor of the March for Life in our nation's capital, Delegate Nick Freitas delivered a gentle, yet passionate speech about why he is pro-life during the House of Delegates' Morning Hour at our state capitol.. Our team of General Assembly lobbyists caught this and thought it was worthy of sharing to as many people as possible. I agree. Please click on the image below and view it, and please share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It is only about four-and-a-half minutes long, but each word is powerful and meaningful. I know you and all you share it with will be as touched as we were.
Case Closed. Decision Still to Come.
Case Closed. Decision Still to Come.
Yesterday, abortion industry and the private counsel hired to defend Virginia’s laws made their closing arguments in federal district court in Falls Church Medical Center v. Oliver, wrapping up a grueling two-week trial in which nearly all our state’s pro-life laws hang in the balance. My team and I, including our five new summer interns, were in the courtroom to witness every word.
After failing year after year to pass legislation to achieve their ultimate goal of unfettered access to taxpayer-funded abortions performed by anyone in facilities with no oversight up until the moment of birth, the abortion industry turned to the courts – targeting Virginia to be its precedent-setting case in that goal. For a quick refresher on the overall case and some of what happened before and during the trial, be sure to look back at our blog posts. (“Surprise Miracle”, “Falls Church v. Oliver”, “The Plaintiffs Rest” and “Defense Makes Its Case”)
In yesterday’s closing statement, the lawyer for Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Whole Women’s Health gave frankly an overstated, over-confident, and oversimplified summary of the facts in this case and how the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents supposedly require the judge to totally throw out all of the following Virginia laws (some on the books since 1975):
- “Window to the Womb" ultrasound law providing a woman the opportunity to view her ultrasound and hear the fetal heart tone if she wishes
- Abortion informed consent materials
- A 24-hour wait period after the ultrasound and prior to an abortion
- All abortion center health and safety regulations
- The requirement for 2nd trimester abortions to be done in hospitals, and
- The requirement for having actual physicians perform the abortion procedure
Despite how reasonable these safeguards are for ensuring the health, safety, and informed consent of vulnerable women facing this permanent – and often conflicted – decision, the abortion industry has proven its willingness to sacrifice anything, and anyone, for the sake of money and power. It's quite revealing that the same industry that purports to be about women's health is doing everything it can to strip away things like health and safety standards, informed consent, and requirements that medical doctors be the ones to perform an invasive surgery. We pray that Judge Hudson sees right through the hollow (yet slick) legal arguments of the Plaintiffs. If his questions from the bench were any signal, we sense that on most of the issues involved, he does.
The attorney defending our laws kept her closing much more direct, succinct, and generally had solid legal arguments. The Defense’s closing highlighted the evidence throughout the trial, even brought forward by some of the Plaintiffs’ witnesses, that safety standards have greatly improved the facilities doing the invasive surgery of abortion, that ultrasound is a critical element of the abortion procedure, and that physicians are uniquely qualified to perform all types of abortion and deal with all potential complications.
Significantly, the Defense pointed out that the Plaintiffs did not put forward even a single Virginia woman of child-bearing age who could demonstrate any burden whatsoever in her ability to obtain an abortion as a result of these laws. “If there were such a woman,” said the Defense attorney, “surely the Plaintiffs, who perform abortions all across the Commonwealth every single day, would be able to provide one.” But they couldn’t. That is more than a little problematic for the Plaintiffs when the legal standard they must demonstrate is an “undue burden” on an actual woman pursuing abortion.
While some important points were omitted from her closing and several points were conceded unnecessarily (this was the Attorney General’s hired counsel, mind you), the attorney definitely put forward a laudable and even compelling defense of the laws. And that was encouraging.
Now that the trial is over and all the documents and evidence are in, we are left only to pray for Judge Hudson’s wise discernment, his respect for our laws and the Constitution, and that he has a true appreciation for the gravity of his decision in terms of its impact on the lives and health of women, unborn children, federalism and the rule of law. Please join us in that prayer over the next several weeks.
Whatever the outcome of this case, The Family Foundation will remain ever-vigilant on behalf of Virginia families for the protection and promotion of every human life, and especially those most vulnerable among us. As soon as we learn of a decision in this case, we’ll let you know.
Abortion Trial: Defense Makes Its Case
Abortion Trial: Defense Makes Its Case
This week, the Commonwealth is making its defense of Virginia’s common-sense pro-life laws under siege from the abortion industry in federal court in the high-stakes case of Falls Church Medical Center, LLC v. Oliver. Today marked the end of Day 2 of the Defense’s case, as so far six expert witnesses have taken the stand.
Yesterday, four separate respected and long-time employees of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC) (all of whom, it should be noted, serve within the administration of pro-infanticide Ralph Northam, and all of whom served under former Governor Terry McAuliffe) hammered home their belief that the health and safety standards for abortion facilities through regulations first initiated in 2012 are reasonable, helpful, and clearly necessary for patient safety and care.
The witnesses included two experienced inspectors of the abortion facilities since 2012 who have personally witnessed and cited many of the 500+ horrific abortion facility violations, including those of the former Virginia Health Group in Fairfax, whose license was immediately and indefinitely suspended in April 2016 by Gov. McAuliffe’s own Commissioner of Health after a 70-page inspection report revealed violations so gut-wrenching that it was deemed to be an immediate danger to patient safety.
When the witness inspector recounted first entering that facility for an inspection that was triggered by a patient complaint, she described how “When we walked in, the things that we observed were very concerning to us.” She described a dirty patient waiting area, with furniture that was all stained and in disrepair, “filthy” carpets, and holes and graffiti on the walls. “And that was just the waiting area,” she remarked.
Other violations included dirty, unsanitized equipment, dried blood on surfaces, dust and debris on machines, stopped up toilets (where a nurse walked out into the hall with a plunger in her hands and then immediately went to begin a procedure without washing her hands), boxes of patient files stacked in the patient bathroom, poor infection control procedures, unmarked syringes laid on dirty desks and contaminated from one surface to another, and general failure of employees to wash hands before or after procedures. At one point, the physician, without washing his hands, put on gloves to perform a procedure, then came back to his office, took off the gloves, and immediately reached into a box of donuts with his unwashed hands. (And this is just what they do when the state inspectors are watching!)
One of the patient records that had been randomly pulled for auditing purposes showed that the patient had to be rushed to the emergency room because the physician had caused a laceration of her cervix while performing an abortion. The facility did not even have sutures on the premises to help stop the bleeding! This was just one abortion facility, on one occasion. But it really drove home the point about why regulatory oversight of these facilities is so critical. It really blew wide open the Plaintiffs’ attempt to claim that all of these health and safety oversight policies are burdensome and unnecessary.
Day Two of the Defense’s case showcased a Board Certified OBGYN, who laid out the strong case for why a 24-hour wait period prior to an abortion, a required ultrasound and informed consent procedures, and the limitation on performing abortions to physicians only are all well-justified laws for securing patient safety, care, and medical best practices. She also explained the serious potential complications of abortions at various stages of development, and why it was so important that later-term abortions be performed only in a hospital setting rather than a typical abortion facility patient room. The Plaintiiffs’ lawyer did everything she could to discredit her by targeting her Christian faith and life-affirming personal beliefs, including her associations with a CareNet pregnancy resource center, where she serves as the volunteer Medical Director, having performed over 1000 free ultrasounds in the past three years alone. They also took issue with her membership in AAPLOG (American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists). Sad, but not surprising.
Finally, an economist discredited the abortion industry’s expert testimonies which attempted to imply that these laws had somehow caused an undue burden on some Virginia women seeking abortions. The economist analyzed their testimonies and clearly showed how they had not shown any causal link between the laws and women’s ability to access abortion facilities, which is their burden to prove in this case, and the central issue in the case.
On Thursday, the Defense will wrap up it’s case, and the Plaintiff’s will bring in a few rebuttal witnesses on Friday. Then it’s on to closing arguments. Judge Hudson seems to be asking all the right questions throughout the trial, which indicates that he really gets what’s going on. Overall, I’d say the Defense has really, as they say, shown up ready to fight. And, well, that is much more than we expected. There is much reason for optimism, but cautious optimism to be sure.
The Plaintiffs' Rest
The Plaintiffs' Rest
Earlier this week, we told you how the abortion industry’s lawsuit challenging all of Virginia’s pro-life laws kicked off in what has been scheduled for a 2-week trial in federal court. The Plaintiffs continued their lineup of “expert” witnesses, including staff from Planned Parenthood and Whole Women’s Health. Again, the plaintiffs and their witnesses spent much of the time avoiding anything that might reveal to the Judge or the media present in the courtroom that a human being was in the womb whose life is taken when these abortions occur. Terms like “voluntary pregnancy interruption” replaced abortion in some exchanges. Interruption usually implies something will resume later, except, apparently in this usage of the word.
Courtroom exchanges also revealed that the Hampton abortion clinic has no doctor on site and performs chemical abortions by telemedicine. As described, a doctor advises a nurse by video conferencing, who then administers the abortion pill. While we’ve known that there is no doctor practicing at this abortion facility, it was unknown how they were administering chemical abortions. It has seemed that in the past, legislators have been under the impression that abortion was not happening by telemedicine, despite our concerns.
Witnesses on the stand included the both Medical Director and CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and the founder of Whole Women’s Health, LLC. Each of these individuals testified that routine biennial inspections are burdensome and unhelpful. Thankfully, after much advocacy for no oversight, Judge Hudson asked the abortion staff in a very perplexed manner, “You’re not saying you want no oversight, right?” to which the abortion industry response was that they would still be governed by OSHA and CLIA. OSHA regulations are designed simply to protect any business’ employees from safety risks, like construction site falls, etc. CLIA regulations are specific requirements for handling laboratory test results, etc. Neither of these would guard against infection and ensure abortion complications are handled appropriately.
Sadly, the CEO of VA League for Planned Parenthood (including several locations) assured the court that this entity alone had taken well over 50,000 lives just in the last 12 years. Of course, it was not phrased in that manner. As a mom, I realized that those were classmates and teammates of my four children, the oldest of whom is 12 years old. It was likely friends and neighbors of mine, unaware of the support for their pregnancy, adoption or motherhood that was available to them, who made the decision to end those lives. Heartbreaking.
The court also heard from Dr. Karen Remley, a former Commissioner of Health, who attempted to paint a picture of how the safety standards she helped put together with a group of doctors would have been valuable but that the process was corrupted by politics. The problem with her argument (that hopefully the Judge recognizes) is that all regulations go through a political process. Not all recommendations given by experts during the regulatory process are included in the final product when voted upon by the government entity making the final decision. This is not abnormal, but in fact, is practically guaranteed due to the lengthy regulatory process. In many places, her testimony inadvertently helped the defense. Here are a few of Dr. Remley’s other notable statements:
She noted that, in forming the group of experts to give recommendations on standards, they had gotten the advice from the heads of the various medical school OBGYN departments. She highlighted how the McDonnell administration suggested she include Dr. John Seeds, then Chairman of the OBGYN department at VCU. This was supposedly her evidence to show that the administration forced a doctor onto the panel who was likely initially excluded because he is known to be in favor of the preservation of unborn life.
She repeatedly confirmed that many of the components of the safety standards are “medically optimal.” These included the CDC guidelines for infectious disease control and life-saving equipment. Her concern wasn’t directed at unnecessary safety guidelines, but simply that all outpatient surgery does not receive equal oversight.
As she called the regulation of physicians’ offices the “wild west” and admitted that the state knows nothing about the safety of those practices, you could almost hear the Plaintiff lawyers gasp, since this is their desired level of standards they need to convince the Judge is sufficient. She did note that the building construction guidelines were not part of the original recommendations, but omitted the fact that they were added because the Code of Virginia has a law requiring them.
She sited that, in addition to the building code requirements, the doctor panel never recommended that an abortion facility have a Transfer Agreement with a hospital, which was included in the Board’s final recommendations. Unfortunately, she grossly mischaracterized that safety requirement as the physician having to be “on staff” at a hospital, which is not the same as having Admitting Privileges. The Commissioner is fully aware that the safety standards are meant to govern the facility, and that they cannot and do not govern the doctor. Regardless of her misrepresentation, she must not have been aware that part of the previous Abortionist’s testimony about handling complications included the fact that if it were severe enough, they would transport the patient to a hospital. I suspect a Judge would naturally conclude that such a connection between facility and hospital would be valuable in that case.
There was also considerable focus on the 24-hour delay and the ultrasound requirement, and the supposed burden these place on women seeking abortions. The Plaintiffs even brought in a bioethicist to suggest that even merely offering a woman the option to view her ultrasound or to hear her baby’s heartbeat – as required by law - violated the woman’s autonomy and decision-making capability. Yes, you read that right. You just cannot make this stuff up. According to this “expert” bioethicist, less knowledge for a woman equals greater autonomy. So much for “a woman’s choice.”
The trial so far has clearly placed the abortion industry in the role of Chicken Little, effectively claiming“the sky is falling” with each and every requirement, no matter how minor. According to the Plaintiffs, the regulations are overly burdensome, the safety standards are unachievable, the waiting period is unhelpful and unfair, and women will be unable travel to obtain their abortion, etc., etc.. One wonders what nominal requirement the abortion industry would consider not be an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion. I can think of one very effective way the government could ensure women’s easier access to abortion: slash the industry’s prices for abortions in half. Somehow I’m certain Planned Parenthood would draw a line on that one.
Now the Plaintiff’s case has been fully presented. Next week it will be the Defense’s turn to argue their side, and hopefully make a compelling case for upholding these important protections for health, safety, and life. We will be in the courtroom following this case closely, so stay tuned.
Restating The Obvious
Restating The Obvious
These days, it is increasingly our task to point people back to the principles they know intuitively, but which are rapidly going out of fashion. Paradoxically, this task becomes both easier and harder every day. That’s because we’re living in a time in which the obvious has become the unspeakable, while the once-unspeakable has become the unquestionable. In such times, there is only one thing to do if we are to have any hope of restoring our sanity – and humanity: Restate the obvious, and do it often and without fear. Here’s a good start.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident:
An unborn child is a life, not a choice.
The intentional destruction of innocent human life is wrong.
There are males and there are females, and one cannot become the other.
Male and female form a complementary pair both in body and spirit that is distinct from all other pairings.
Only the sexual components of both a man and a woman can bring about new human life.
Married biological parents afford the most natural and optimal environment within which children may be nurtured, protected, trained, and affirmed.
Mothers and Fathers are not interchangeable.
Fathers, whether present or absent, play a crucial role in the life of every child.
Parents are generally the most reliable arbiters of what is in their children’s best interests.
Marriage brings positive stability to adults, children, families, the marketplace, and society at large.
Strong, loving families beget healthy, industrious individuals and communities.
People with strong family ties are less likely to turn to the government for help in meeting their needs.
Man’s duties to his Creator take precedence over those he owes to all others.
As a government’s power and scope increase, individual freedoms decrease.
Governments closer to the people are more accountable and responsive to the people.
Governments, like all other human-led institutions, are subject ultimately to the Creator of all things.
Private charitable enterprises are far more efficient and effective in meeting individual needs than impersonal government-based aid.
Religious faith instills moral values for individual behaviors, which in turn makes ordered liberty possible.
IRS Deems Anti-God Satanists a "Church"
IRS Deems Anti-God Satanists a "Church"
If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was hoping to improve its image after the recent controversy that involved delaying the tax-exempt status to certain qualified conservative groups, it certainly didn’t help its cause by giving The Satanic Temple (TST) tax exempt status under the category of “church” last month.
One would think that a government agency in charge of collecting taxes form hardworking citizens – and is not exactly a favorite of most Americans – would steer away from avoidable controversy or at least exercise more caution in its decision-making. Yet, last month the IRS issued a ruling letter that grants 501c3 tax exempt status to TST located in Salem, Massachusetts, historically recognized for the famed “Salem Witch Trials” that took place there. Now TST will be able to receive tax-deductible donations in the same way that churches and other charitable organizations do.
In a day and age when businesses - and even some government agencies - allow people to choose from a multitude of gender options, the IRS decided in this case to ignore the alternative tax-exempt categories and treat TST as a church.
Up until the tax-exemption was issued, TST was actually categorized as a “religious organization.” Unlike a bona fide church, a religious organization doesn’t necessarily have an established place of worship or the characteristics of a traditional church like a formal religious doctrine or regular religious services and education programs. It may have as one of its principle purposes to advance religion, but that alone does not automatically qualify it as a church.
Churches have been, and should continue to be, treated as a special protected status in significant part because they have for centuries proven to make contributions to our communities through their moral teachings and charitable actions, which go far beyond what any government is capable of offering.
However, by awarding federal tax-exempt status to TST by designating it as a “church” like any other, the federal government gives credence and a greater societal platform to a group of rebel-rousers who are decidedly “nontheistic” with no regard for traditional religion, and who actively engage in political activism for the primary purpose of disrupting American piety and its social mores. That’s the complete opposite of what churches have historically existed to accomplish.
Once again, another unaccountable administrative agency goes rouge in its decision-making.
All of this underscores the necessity for citizens to keep a watchful eye on the actions of federal and state government agencies. It’s why The Family Foundation is committed to following Virginia’s administrative rulemaking process and publicly commenting on regulatory actions that will restrict religious liberty, take away parental rights, or diminish the role of churches in our Commonwealth.
If left unchecked, administrative agencies will continue to make poor decisions - like the IRS did - that jeopardize the effectiveness of churches and threaten religious liberty.
Religious Liberty On the Line!
Religious Liberty On the Line!
The federal “Equality Act” (H.R. 5) is moving through the House of Representatives at warp speed, and is scheduled to be voted on this week!
Last week I told you that this bill is one of the most dangerous pieces of federal legislation that I have seen in my lifetime, a comment that I do not make flippantly. And the more we learn about the potential impact of this legislation, the more my concerns grow.
The bill’s threats to religious liberty, free speech, churches and faith-based hospitals are well-established, but we are learning more about how this bill will actually cause greater harm to people. According to Dr. Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician and executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, H.R. 5 would force physicians to prescribe toxic hormones and drugs for adults and even children that can produce severe side effects, or even to perform serious medical procedures, all to “change” a person’s physical features to conform to their self-prescribed gender identity.
The so-called Equality Act would eliminate all parental authority related to the training and well-being of their children by prohibiting parents from ever interfering with a child’s access to transgender medical procedures. Sadly, this is no longer a hypothetical. Recently, parents in Ohio, which has a similar state law, had their parental rights terminated for failing to approve puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for their adolescent child.
We’ve learned that the so-called Equality Act would also provide that “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” cannot be treated any differently than other physical conditions. This means all restrictions to abortion would be torn down, and anybody or any group who doesn’t want to fund or commit an abortion at any stage will be subject to punishment.
The reality is that this type of radical legislation has already permeated many state legislatures, and now the House is applying a full-court press to pass the so-called Equality Act at the federal level.
We cannot allow the government to push people with strong religious convictions into compromising their beliefs, or to usurp the prerogatives – and constitutional rights – of parents to guide the education and health of their children.
CLICK HERE to contact your Members of Congress today, and urge them to OPPOSE H.R. 5, the Equality Act. You can also reach your Congressman and Senators at (202) 224-3121. Don’t wait, the House plans to vote on this bill this week!