McAuliffe Dealt Setback: Senate Upholds Conscience Protection!Mar. 06, 2014
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.
Governor McAuliffe will have to chew on this legislative defeat.
Student Freedom Of Speech Bill Passes Senate!Jan. 23, 2014
Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia Senate passed SB 236, legislation that will clarify the free speech and religious liberty protections of public school students. The bill, a high priority for The Family Foundation, passed by a vote of 20-18, largely along party lines. Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), a longtime defender of religious liberty, is the bill's patron. Based on existing law in two states that has not been challenged in the courts, Carrico's bill would create what the law calls "limited public forums" at certain public school events, which restrict schools from censoring subject matter simply because it is from a faith perspective. The schools can still "limit" the speech to the matter at hand. For example, a graduation speech still has to be about graduating, but it can contain statements about the importance of faith. The bill also protects students' rights to organize prayer groups, have events such as "see you at the pole" gatherings, wear clothing which express religious sentiments and the like.
Several senators expressed support for the bill, including Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa). Senator Garrett's passionate defense of freedom of expression and religious liberty as a whole was topped only by his answers to questions posed by an opponent to the bill, Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond). Senator McEachin, attempting to stump the bill's proponents, asked numerous questions about the supposed need to define various phrases used in the bill. However, he severely underestimated Senator Garrett's knowledge of religious liberty case law. Senator Garrett eagerly and deftly answered McEachin's questions and furthermore challenged him to apply this bill not just to Christian religious speech, but rather to all religious speech. Garrett also argued that students should be allowed to articulate and hear philosophies and beliefs that are unpopular or minority views for the good of their education.
Also defending the bill were Senators Dick Black (R-13, Loudoun) and Richard Stuart (R-4, Fredericksburg). Senator Stuart pointed out that while legislators on both sides of the isle complain about the SOLs and the "teaching to the test without teaching critical thinking," this bill would provide the opportunity for viewpoints that not everyone agrees with to be expressed, which motivates critical thinking.
The opposition misrepresented the legislation by claiming that it would "coerce" students to hear a viewpoint that may be "offensive." Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30, Alexandria) warned of "coercive prayer" to students who are compelled to attend a function. In fact, the bill doesn't offer special protection to religious speech, but simply the same protection that is offered any other type of speech at a school function. It evens the playing field for students who have a religious viewpoint, protecting them from unwarranted discrimination, and only requires school boards to adopt policies that protect that speech.
We appreciate that 19 of 20 Republicans voted to support religious liberty with their votes for the bill, as well as Democrat Senator Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazwell). The only Republican to vote against the measure was Senator John Watkins (R-10, Chesterfield).
My Life Is Worth LivingJan. 17, 2013
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 (email@example.com) 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and express your sincere thanks for his courage today.
"Incompatible With Life"Jan. 15, 2013
Current Virginia law requires the state to pay for elective low-income abortions of unborn children with severe disabilities. This unethical practice requires taxpayers to fund the death of an unborn child after an opinion is given as to his or her value and odds of survival prior to birth. Therefore, The Family Foundation has joined a coalition of pro-life organizations in support of SB 826, a bill patroned by Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa). By repealing the part of Virginia law forcing taxpayers to pay for non-federally funded abortions, SB 826 brings Virginia in line with the majority of states and with the federal Hyde Amendment — an amendment allowing federal Medicaid funding for abortion only in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother. The Senate Education and Health committee will hear SB 826 this Thursday. Please e-mail the members of the committee today and encourage them to vote yes on the bill and also vote to defeat any unfriendly amendments or efforts to refer the bill to another committee. Last year a similar bill was referred to the Finance Committee where it failed.
Senator Don McEachin (D-9, Henrico), a leader of the pro-abortion agenda, recently commented on SB 826 stating that children with severe disabilities are "incompatible with life." We could not disagree more! Eric and Ruth Brown of Nashville, Tenn., know something about such a term. Their unborn child was diagnosed with holoprosencephlay, a condition where the brain does not fully develop and the child was deemed "incompatible with life." Unwilling to play God, this family now celebrates their 24-week- old daughter, Pearl.
Life is of intrinsic value regardless of the physical or mental challenges a child may encounter. Every child deserves a chance at life. It is vital that pro-life Virginians e-mail the members of the Senate Education and Health committee today to tell them that unlike Senator McEachin’s radical beliefs, no one should be deemed incompatible with life, especially not from the limited information one gains while their child is in the womb. All unborn are worthy of life and should be given the opportunity to be valued members of society.
Pro-abortion advocates have made false allegations to the media in regards to SB 826. The truth is that SB 826 would not ban the abortion of the disabled, but only refuse public funding for them. In FY 2009, the Virginia Department of Health funded 10 abortions that met the disability criteria and spent a total of $2,566.90 doing so. With recent reports that the "non-profit" Planned Parenthood turned a profit of $87.4 million this past year (after receiving $542.4 million in taxpayer dollars), it's perplexing why taxpayers should be asked to foot the bill for the unethical abortion of the disabled. If the abortion industry feels so adamantly that abortions for the disabled should be available, it should pay for them instead of forcing taxpayers (many in violation of their conscience) to pay. Please contact the members of the Senate Education and Health committee today and urge them to support SB 826.