As President of The Family Foundation of Virginia, Mrs. Victoria Cobb is responsible for the leadership and direction of the Commonwealth’s largest and oldest pro-family organization. In her role she maintains the vision and mission of the organization. Victoria also serves as the organization’s spokesperson and is regularly in demand as a speaker and commentator on family issues in the media. She has been with the pro-family organization since 2000.
The Plaintiffs' RestMay. 24, 2019
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.
The So-Called "Equality Act"May. 22, 2019
Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the extremely dangerous H.R. 5 by a vote of 236-173. This so-called “Equality Act” will now move to the Senate for consideration.
Here is how your Representatives voted last week:
Representatives voting “Yes:”
Elaine Luria (D-2nd District)
Bobby Scott (D-3rd District)
Donald McEachin (D-4th District)
Abigail Spanberger (D-7th District)
Donald Beyer (D-8th District)
Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District)
Gerald Connolly (D-11th District)
Representatives voting “No:”
Robert Wittman (R-1st District)
Denver Riggleman (R-5th District)
Ben Cline (R-6th District)
Morgan Griffith (R-9th District)
The so-called Equality Act, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not only harms women, but will also lead to utter chaos in other areas of public life:
Violates the fundamental freedoms of speech and religion:
It would force faith-based charities, non-profits, and private schools to compromise their deeply held religious beliefs in order to affirm a person’s sexual behavior or preferred gender status, or risk punishment or loss of federal funding/tax exemptions.
Professionals that specialize in creative services — like bakers, photographers and florists — would be compelled to communicate messages (typically associated with weddings) that directly contradict their religious beliefs and violate their conscience or be forced out of a profession genuinely love.
It would expressly prohibit anyone from applying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to defend against the intrusions imposed by this bill.
Undermines parental rights:
The bill 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.
It could also lead to parents losing custody of their child if they do not adhere to their child’s desire to take puberty blocker and cross-sex hormones.
Public schools would be legally required to provide instruction on transgender ideology, regardless of parental opposition.
Mandates transgender policies:
The Equality Act could impose nationwide policies on transgender bathroom use, pronoun usage, and a nationwide sex-reassignment health care mandate.
According to Dr. Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician and executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, the bill 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.
Overrides all abortion restrictions:
The so-called Equality Act provides that “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” cannot be treated any differently than other physical conditions, which would override all state and federal abortion restrictions. This means anybody or any group who doesn’t want to fund or commit an abortion at any stage will be subject to punishment.
Additional Resources on the “Equality Act:”
“Nancy Pelosi’s ‘Equality Act’ Would Undo Trump’s Most Significant Achievements” by Ryan T. Anderson
YouTube channel that has the three explainer videos and six testimonial videos regarding the harms of the so-called Equality Act and sexual orientation and gender identity policies.
Despite this unfortunate news, we remain hopeful that the U.S. Senate will stand strong against this dangerous legislation and act to uphold religious liberty, free speech, parental rights and the life of the unborn.
Falls Church v. OliverMay. 20, 2019
Today at 9:00 a.m. I joined others from my team at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Some of us were inside to watch the proceedings while others were outside praying for a righteous decision.
Judge Henry E. Hudson is hearing a vitally important lawsuit against all of our pro-life laws. This lawsuit, Falls Church Medical Center, LLC. v. Oliver, was brought by Planned Parenthood and abortion allies to take away all of our pro-life laws. Here are some of the laws that the abortion industry wants to strike down with a court decree:
Our "Window to the Womb" ultrasound law,
Our law requiring full informed consent before abortions,
The law requiring a 24 hour waiting period before an abortion,
All of our health and safety regulations,
Our law limiting 2nd Trimester abortions to hospitals only; and
The law, which has been on the books since 1975, stating that only licensed physicians are allowed to do abortions!
Ultimately the pro-abortion industry wants to remove every pro-life law we have ever passed! And, having failed to do so in the legislature, they are turning to the courts.
Judge Hudson will be hearing witnesses and testimony in this case for the next two weeks - concluding on May 31st. The Family Foundation will be there to monitor every day of the proceedings.
It’s hard to fully describe what it’s like to sit in a courtroom and listen to an abortionist, who testifies to having done thousands of abortions, dispassionately describe what he does for a living, complete with seemingly unending euphemisms to describe abortion rather than facts. If one heard Governor Northam describe infanticide on the radio, it’s comparable, except for hours on end.
Much of the day was listening to the testimony and cross examination of an Oregon abortionist Dr. Mark Nichols. Dr. Nichols went to great lengths to claim nearly all abortion is virtually without complication. The difficulty with his presentation is that in Virginia, despite years of presenting legislation to the Virginia General Assembly to collect complication data on abortion, short of what is presented as a result of the newly adopted safety inspections, our Commonwealth simply has not been collecting complications. For decades it has been the case that if a woman has a perforated uterus and presents herself at the hospital, it will be filed as a hemorrhaging, not an abortion complication. Even after regulations adopted in 2011 required some complication reporting, inspections reveal that complications are still not being reported. Dr. Nichols reported that even uterus perforations are often handled onsite rather than transferring a patient to a hospital. We know that is because the industry does everything possible to conceal complications, including not sending women to the hospital when then need that level of repair after a botched abortion.
Abortionist Nichols gave testimony that he does a thorough job ensuring the informed consent of women, emphasizing that he finds women fully competent to understand the decision they are making. However, when drilled about his use of ultrasound in that informed consent process, he acknowledged that he does deny women the right to see their ultrasound, despite their request because he knows what’s best for them.
In a moment that shocked no one except Rachel Maddow, Dr. Nichols did affirm his use of ultrasound in each and every abortion he performs because it results in a safer abortion. If one watched the news or late-night television during the passage of our Window to the Womb law in 2012, one would have walked away with the impression that ultrasounds are simply a tool of “state sponsored rape.” Seriously. I wish I were kidding.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of today’s discussion was the notion that this doctor could provide women with any facts that would allow her to make an informed consent when he couldn’t use any correct terms to speak about a woman carrying a child. With the rare exception, he never used the word “baby” and only rarely the term “fetus.” Most of his entire time on the stand only referred to “pregnancies”, “pregnancy tissue” and “products of conception.”
At one point it was clear the defense attorney wanted him to acknowledge the process by which an abortionist ensures they have done a complete abortion, which is to put the child’s body parts back together and determine they are all accounted for. Rather than owning this known process, the abortionist simply said that he checks the womb to ensure the “products of conception” are gone. When asked what the “products of conception” were, he simply responded with the “fetus and placenta.” He even managed to describe needing bigger tools in later week abortions because the “pregnancy is bigger.” In English, rather than abortion-speak, the child ‘s skull is bigger but apparently, despite acting as if abortion is the same as removing a wort, the abortionist does not appear to have the boldness to actually use real words to reference the human body being torn apart.
Much of the testimony centered around the various types of abortion:
1) Chemical - take two pills and induce a process like a miscarriage, including a tremendous amount of bleeding
2) Suction - envision a vacuum used to remove the child
3) Dilation and evacuation (D & E) - a woman is dilated and the child is dismembered and then removed.
4) Induction – the child is shot into the heart with a lethal drug, labor is induced and a whole dead child delivered. If the child is not delivered whole, post-induction dismemberment will occur.
The abortionist steered away from using words like “vacuum”, “dismemberment” or “delivery.” However, it is critical to note that he testified that he does suction abortions until 15 weeks, D & E until 22-24 weeks and induction abortion or what has been coined “heart attack” abortion after 24 weeks. Given this is the case, petitioners are filing to move 2nd trimester (through 27 weeks) abortions from a hospital to an abortion center and remove the physician requirement. If the Judge were to strike down these laws, one has to ask if the law would then allow induction abortions in a center with a health worker who is not a doctor, like a certified midwife delivering the dead baby? Remember, Virginia’s laws are not structured around the types of procedures, they are structured around gestational ages of development. For Judge Hudson to rule by procedure, he would need to essentially rewrite the law for the General Assembly.
Our hope is that the ten-day trial highlights for Judge Hudson the over 500 health and safety violations in the Virginia centers over the last couple of years including blood on the equipment, expired medications and untrained staff. It would be hard to read what we’ve read, inspections that are readily available to the public, and the Judge conclude that this industry needs less oversight.
I will be in the court as often as I can be over the course of this trial. Please keep this case in your prayers.
Suprise Miracle: VA Judge Reverses Himself on Terrible Abortion Ruling!May. 15, 2019
Your prayers continue to pay off in big ways!
This afternoon, in an extremely rare and unexpected twist in the abortion industry’s zealous efforts to strike down nearly all of Virginia’s abortion restrictions, Judge Henry E. Hudson issued a sudden 180-reversal from his devastating decision last week declaring that non-doctors can commit abortions in Virginia.
According to Hudson’s Order today:
On further review, the Court is of the opinion that summary judgment was improvidently awarded to the parties on Count IV based on the present record. Rather, on further consideration, whether the "Physicians-Only Law" presents an undue burden to Virginia women who seek an abortion is a material fact that is genuinely in dispute.
Evidently, after sleeping on his initial decision for a few days, the judge realized he had made a serious miscalculation in judgment that was big enough to justify doing a complete (and very public) about-face. Or perhaps his surprise reversal was merely evidence of Proverbs 21:1 – “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it withersoever he will.”
Whatever the full explanation, we're thrilled that Judge Hudson took this extraordinary step to reverse his earlier decision that jeopardized women's health, nullified our laws, and provided another free pass to the abortion facilities. Unfortunately, when we have an Attorney General who acts out of loyalty to a favored special interest instead of fidelity to the law, initial impressions of the court can become distorted. That seems to have played a role here.
The final trial to decide all these issues is still yet to be heard, but we’re tremendously grateful for this positive course correction. Please continue to pray as this case moves forward. Remember: "This is the confidence that we have towards Him, that if we ask anything according to his will He hears us." (1 John 5:14); and "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)
Religious Liberty On the Line!May. 14, 2019
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!
The Governor Couldn't Resist!May. 10, 2019
The state budget process is finally over, and with it came some big wins and also disappointments. Last week Governor Northam submitted his final actions on the budget to the House of Delegates. They included leaving in place the federal “Hyde Amendment” language, which ensures taxpayers will not be forced to pay for abortions of babies with supposed disabilities, and vetoing a modification to the existing Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) program that would have stopped nearly $2 million from being funneled to the abortion industry.
For more details about these budget provisions, you can read about them here on our blog.
We cannot overstate how important of a win it is for the protection of pre-born babies to have the Hyde Amendment language included in the budget, especially given the complete disregard for human life that was on full display during session this year. This achievement is the result of strong legislators willing to stand firm for the protection of pre-born babies, as well as the unwavering resolve of The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Virginia Society for Human Life (VSHL) to push for these types of protections year after year.
In the end, the Governor did not accept the Hyde Amendment language willingly, since he was actually prohibited by the Virginia Constitution from vetoing that particular type of budget amendment. Of course, he couldn’t let the Hyde language stand without offering this hypocritical comment indirectly criticizing pro-life conservatives: "the General Assembly's action is cruel and out of touch with the difficult reality some families face." Remember, this is the same Governor who tried to explain that leaving a baby on a table after a failed abortion while the parents and physician had a discussion over whether or not the baby should live or die, was somehow morally acceptable.
The Governor’s actions also demonstrated his total commitment to Planned Parenthood by vetoing an amendment introduced by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12, Glen Allen) to limit “LARC” funds to only the purchase of IUD devices. His veto, which will continue to allow millions of dollars in grants being allocated to the abortion industry, was simply a ‘wink and a nod’ to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to say “I’ve still got your back.”
All of this goes to show how elections have consequences, and how important it is for voters to be aware of the values that their legislators espouse. That’s why The Family Foundation Action works so hard to create a General Assembly Report Card to show you exactly how legislators voted on specific legislation that has a significant impact on families.
Federal Court Strikes Down Pro-Life LawsMay. 09, 2019
Late Monday night, we learned of a rogue federal court’s disturbing decision in Falls Church Medical Center v. Oliver, on a preliminary challenge by Planned Parenthood against nearly every law on our books designed to affirm and protect life for moms and their unborn babies. After digesting the court’s shocking opinion, here’s the gist of the tragic results:
Non-physician staff (e.g. nurses and even midwives) will now be allowed to conduct both surgical and “medical” first-trimester abortions, putting women at even greater risk. (VA’s law for physician-only abortions has been on the books since 1975.) Now, women undergoing a medical or surgical first-trimester abortion will go through this difficult medical procedure without a doctor!
All 16 of Virginia’s abortion centers will now be allowed to perform second-trimester abortions with no criminal penalties. (VA’s criminal law requiring 2nd-Trimester abortions to be conducted in hospitals has been on the books since 1975.) Only two facilities in the state were previously able to perform these.
All of Virginia’s health and safety regulations for abortion facilities have been called into question and are now in serious jeopardy of being invalidated.
This doesn’t even account for the numerous other laws now up in the air to be decided in a trial set for May 20 – such as the “window into the womb” ultrasound requirement, informed consent procedures, the 24-hour wait period before an abortion, and other reasonable measures designed to protect women who are facing such a life-altering decision.
The single greatest political battle we’ve been fighting in Virginia in recent years is defending our hard-fought and common-sense pro-life laws from the relentless schemes of the radical abortion industry to undermine and destroy them. Despite some notable victories, this defense is proving all but impossible when our own Attorney General is the primary culprit in undermining them at every turn.
The abortion industry, led by Planned Parenthood, is seeking to ‘run the tables’ on Virginians in one fell swoop with a single court opinion after 40+ years of solid pro-life gains. They realized that, with this Attorney General fully in their pocket, whose “defense” of our laws in this case looked more like a complete acquiescence to Planned Parenthood’s claims, the judge almost had no choice but to hand so much to the abortion industry.
And when the named Defendant in the case, the state Commissioner of Health – appointed by the infanticide-promoting Governor Northam – takes every opportunity to side with the abortionist Plaintiffs in establishing the claims and facts, how do our pro-life laws stand a chance??? This kind of governence is tyranny at its worst, and the potential consequences are hard to even imagine.
Every Virginian should be outraged!
With virtually no control over what happens next, this is yet another moment for all pro-life Virginians to reflect on one unasailable reality: Elections have consequences. That being true, while we may have little control, we have the ear of the One who has all control. Please join me in praying for the outcome of this case to be fully argued on May 20th. So much is at stake for so many who need the laws' protection.
In the face of this disheartening news, and regardless of the outcome of the final trial, we remain undaunted and will continue to fight in the legislature, the courts, and the hearts and minds of all Virginians.
The Greatest Assault to Our Liberties in My LifetimeMay. 06, 2019
The so-called “Equality Act” (H.R. 5) being debated in Congress is quite possibly one of the most dangerous pieces of federal legislation that I have encountered in my lifetime. It would wreak havoc on religious freedom, free speech, churches and faith-based hospitals, as well as undercut all the gains made on behalf of women.
Many aspects of our daily lives - public accommodations, employment, housing, counseling, and more – would be impacted. Here are just a few samples of its likely impact if it ever becomes law:
Force young girls to dress and shower in front of boys;
Allow men onto women’s athletic teams and to compete against women in Olympic-style sports;
Require religious hospitals to provide sex-change operations;
Compel women’s shelters to allow men into their facilities and share housing with females who have already been subjected to trauma; and
Prevent couples who believe in God’s design for marriage and sexuality from adopting or caring for a foster child.
While variations of this legislation have been introduced in Congress before, this particular version would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes all throughout the federal code. The architects of this legislation claim it would protect people from discrimination, but in reality it forces people to deny basic biological realities and to compromise their deeply held beliefs and religious convictions in order affirm a person’s sexual behavior or preferred gender status.
Don’t just take my word for it. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), insists that "we cannot allow claims of religious freedom to be used to discriminate against an LGBT individual." This legislation is so radical that even Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D – WV) and Gregory Angelo, former leader of the “Log Cabin Republicans,” have publicly opposed it.
While upholding justice and human dignity are essential to any thriving society, and reflective of our core American beliefs, this so-called Equality Act offers no meaningful protections for individuals, but especially none for Christians. Instead, it removes time-honored decency protections for women and girls, violates privacy, regulates speech, and threatens the ability of every American to exercise their religious liberty – even expressly declaring that The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 cannot be used as a claim or defense against it!
We cannot allow the government to push people with strong religious convictions into compromising their beliefs – like they tried to do with Peter Vlaming, a teacher at West Point High School who was recently fired for simply refusing to use male pronouns for a biological female student. (For a brief account of what happened you can read our blog about it here.)
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 delay, the House Democrats are pushing to hold a vote on this bill soon!
The 2018-2019 Report Card is Here!May. 03, 2019
The Family Foundation Action today released the 15th edition of its non-partisan General Assembly Report Card. This educational document informs citizens on key votes taken by the General Assembly during the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions that relate to the issues of life, marriage, parental authority, religious liberty, and constitutional government. Click the icon below to view the new Report Card to see how your legislators voted:
It is our hope the 2018-2019 Report Card, along with Voter Guides that will be distributed this fall, will help motivate citizens to vote and enable them to make informed choices. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 Virginia Senate seats are up for reelection, which will be held Tuesday, November 5th. Voters will also have the opportunity to review the scores of several legislators seeking re-nomination by their party prior to the June primary elections scheduled for Tuesday, June 11th.
As with each Report Card distributed over the years, hundreds of votes taken by the legislature during the past two years were reviewed. The first page of the Report Card explains the criteria used in determining which votes to include. Non-partisan and broad-based, the Report Card seeks not to benefit one party or candidate over another, but to equip voters with the information they need to make an informed choice when they go to the ballot box.
This year’s Report Card has fourteen “100 percenters” in the House of Delegates and three in the state Senate.
To order additional copies of the Report Card to distribute in your church, community groups, or to like-minded friends and neighbors, click here or contact The Family Foundation Action at 804-343-0010 or at email@example.com. A suggested donation of $.25 per copy is encouraged to help defray costs of printing and distribution. Please also consider sponsoring the distribution of 100, 500 or even 1,000 Report Cards with a donation of $25, $125, or $250. Checks should be made out to "TFF Action" and mailed to 919 E. Main Street, Suite 1110, Richmond, VA 23219, or you can pay by credit card here. Thank you for your support!
The mission of The Family Foundation Action is to protect families and promote responsible citizenship by giving Virginians the tools they need to hold their elected officials accountable. The Family Foundation Action is not a PAC and does not endorse candidates. Therefore, please be advised that political campaigns and candidates for public office may not use either The Family Foundation or The Family Foundation Action logo for any campaign-related publications. Any such use of these logos is not authorized and should be ceased and corrected immediately.
The Family Foundation Action is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(4) organization and paid for this informational communication. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
A New Casino In New Kent County?May. 01, 2019
If it looks like a casino, feels like a casino, and plays like a casino, it’s probably because it is one, or might as well be. Last week, New Kent County, outside of Richmond, officially opened one such establishment.
According to the new “Rosie’s Gaming Emporium” at the Colonial Downs facility, which was sold to politicians last year (over our persistent arguments to the contrary) as ‘the only thing that can save live horse racing in Virginia’: “Our 600 [Historical Horse Racing (HHR)] Machines look, feel and play like the games you know and love!” (Click here to watch their video demonstration of one of these “HHR” machines.)
If anyone was somehow fooled before into believing that all this had something to do with horses, the evidence is now undeniable: These are simply lined rows of slot machines in an atmosphere that by any ordinary description is a casino. And there are plans in the works to put the same Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in various locations across the state, including on Midlothian Turnpike in South Richmond, in Vinton, and in Hampton – all by the end of the year.
As I told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “The only winner of expanded gambling in Virginia is the gambling industry itself. The promised panacea of increased revenue to the state never seems to materialize, and the cost to the community of broken homes and families can be devastating.”
For many reasons, it is clear that this effort has never primarily been about the cherished past-time of thoroughbred horse racing. That was evident when the industry stakeholders who influenced the Virginia Racing Commission stripped from its draft regulations any requirement for a minimum number of live race days at the tracks. Meanwhile, their stated intention is to change the regulations to allow for an unlimited number of these slot machines to be placed around the state (currently capped at 2,000). We need only to look at the model in other states to recognize it is merely casino gaming by another name, serving as a lucrative cash-cow for a select few business interests, all under the guise of “horse racing.” A classic example of “crony capitalism”, the government grants monopolies to a favored few, to the great detriment of countless others.
Not only are these ‘miniature casinos’ destined to lead to the many social problems experienced everywhere these predatory establishments crop up, but as Senator Louise Lucas correctly noted after the bill authorizing it passed in 2018, it’s "the camel's nose under the tent," adding that she saw little difference between machines that allow historical horse race betting and slots. Senator Lucas, who has for many years been pushing for casinos in Virginia, is very pleased by all of this because of how it is opening the door to full-scale casinos throughout the state. (For a brief history of how this came to be in 2018, read our blog about it here.)
While we have every intention to do all we can to resist that very real and imminent prospect, it’s hard not to say “We told you so.”
In related news, it was revealed yesterday that in Kentucky, where this same scheme has been underway for a few years now, the “HHR” industry stakeholders paid for their own regulations to be written and for years had been paying for the testing services of their own machines with virtually no direct oversight from the horse racing commission. In other words, the gambling industry was in charge of ensuring that their own machines were not cheating people. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.
Sadly, that is not so different from the kind of incestuous relationships we have witnessed between the government and gambling industries here. When thinking about these issues, it is always helpful to keep in mind that gambling operations owe their success largely to creating the most effective ways to swindle people out of their money.
HUGE Response In Defense of Faith-Based Counselors!Apr. 23, 2019
We recently alerted our supporters that faith-based counselors are under attack in Virginia. I asked for your help to push back against this targeted ideological bigotry by submitting a comment on the Town Hall website addressing the Board of Counseling’s proposed Guidance Document that seeks to punish licensed counselors simply for affirming biological realities and instilling a healthy sexual outlook in children.
Nearly 600 commenters weighed in, including many Family Foundation supporters. And we were thrilled to see that, as of the close of the comment period last Wednesday, we estimate that around 75% of the comments condemned the Board’s efforts to silence counselors and deny children access to the critical counseling services they need in order to work through unwanted struggles and confusion in their sexuality.
Thank you to all of you who took the time to weigh in and stand up for counselors and children in Virginia. In doing so, you helped advance the cause of free speech, religious liberty, parental rights, patient autonomy, and truth itself.
Now the Board will have to provide some form of written response to all of the comments. Whatever the Board of Counseling ultimately decides to do, they will at least have to contend with and answer to hundreds of compelling comments as to why they should not – and by law, cannot – implement this policy.
We’ll keep you posted on what happens next. Thank you for your valuable help on this!
Faith-Based Counselors Under AttackApr. 10, 2019
They’re at it again! A few weeks ago, I told you about an attempt by a state agency to target and punish faith-based counselors who would simply help a minor work through struggles with unwanted sexual attractions or gender dysphoria. Now, there are several state licensing boards with clear ideological motives that are aiming to do the very same thing. This time, it’s the Board of Counseling, and they need to hear from you!
If you commented on the Board of Psychology’s proposed Guidance Document in response to our last Action Alert – thank you! – but please don’t let that stop you from submitting a comment to the Board of Counseling, too!
Action: Click HERE to enter a comment on the townhall.gov website, and tell the VA Board of Counseling not to punish licensed counselors for helping patients overcome their unwanted sexual feelings by affirming biological realities concerning males and females. (Click on "Enter a comment")
These liberal-leaning health boards are attempting to overwhelm those opposed to this censorship by promulgating regulations on multiple fronts. The intended goals of their combined regulatory actions are to promote the radical LGBTQ agenda and prevent minors and adolescents from being able to acquire the counseling they prefer to give them relief from unwanted sexual feelings.
One of the more alarming aspects of the Guidance/regulations put forward by these Boards on this practice is it creates a blatant double standard whereby counselors would be free to help minor clients explore and possibly cultivate same-sex feelings or even to “change” their gender, while simultaneously prohibiting them from helping minor clients flee from unwanted same-sex attractions and embrace natural sexual expressions and/or their true gender. The consequence of violating this policy could be the state-imposed loss of their professional license, and that is simply unacceptable. Licensed counselors have a responsibility to speak honestly with their minor clients about life’s fundamental truths, and any state policies that compel them to repress those truths during counseling would lead to real ethical dilemmas, not to mention damage to those children. (You can read more about this here on our blog.)
We cannot stand idly by and let this happen. Please CLICK HERE to leave your comment to the Board of Counseling!
Clearly the Board has demonstrated its hostility towards counselors who uphold these natural, biological and/or Biblical viewpoints of human sexuality, and its willingness to violate any and all free speech and conscience protections in order suppress these deeply held beliefs.
The last day to submit public comments on the state Board of Counseling’s proposed Guidance Document to censor licensed counselors’ free speech rights is April 17th.
Budget Update: Victory for Life!Apr. 04, 2019
We are thrilled to tell you that, at yesterday's "Veto Session" in Richmond to consider the Governor's vetos and budget recommendations, the House of Delegates rejected Governor Northam's attempts to make taxpayers pay for abortions and to funnel millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood! This is a huge win for the protection of unborn life, and a great end to a day that began with Virginia's first-ever (and highly successful) statewide March For Life at the Capitol.
For more details of the pro-life budget provisions that were successfully defended yesterday, read about them here on our blog.
The Governor's amendment to keep millions in tax dollars flowing to abortion facilities was defeated 50-49, and his amendment to fund abortions failed on a vote of 50-45. We want to thank several Delegates who made compelling floor speeches in support of the pro-life language, including Delegates Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun), who has been a champion for the budget's "Hyde Amendment" language, Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), and Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg). Look out for videos of these and others like them on our Facebook page soon - The Family Foundation Action.
Believe it or not, there is still one more round left to go in the budget process. It will now be sent back to the Governor, who will have a final veto opportunity. With yesterday’s success, we crossed another major hurdle in protecting life in Virginia. It's a great day to be a pro-life Virginian! Thank you for all your support and prayers.
They Taught Kindergarteners What?Mar. 27, 2019
Have you heard about the recent upheaval in response to Arlington County Schools’ efforts to indoctrinate Kindergarteners with radical gender theories without parents’ consent? We first became aware of the situation when The Washington Post reported on it earlier this month. (Watch our video about it on our Facebook page, and please "Like" and "Follow" our page.)
According to the Post, “Students throughout the country were expected to participate in the National Education Association’s annual Read Across America Day. It was the first time the union partnered with the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT civil rights.”
As part of this ‘reading day’ in partnership with the leading national LGBTQ advocacy group, Ashlawn Elementary brought in a prominent LGBTQ advocate and a self-described “transgender woman” to read a book called “I Am Jazz” to 5-year olds. “I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way,” the advocate read to the students from the book. Here's an excerpt from the Post’s article that should give you chills:
After her reading, McBride told the children, “I’m like Jazz. When I was born, the doctors and my parents, they all thought that I was a boy.”
“Why?” asked a girl in a blue sweater and ponytail.
“Because society, people around them told them that was the case,” McBride said. “It took me getting a little bit older to be able to say that in my heart and in my mind, I knew I was really a girl.”
The kids began discussing hair.
“Can some girls have short hair?” McBride asked. “And can some boys have long hair?”
Yes, the youngsters seemed to agree, answering in unison.
“Anyone can be anything,” one girl chimed in. [End of article]
Do you see how effective something like this can be in deceiving young children about their God-given design? Is it any wonder that some reports show a 4,000 percent increase in children identifying as the opposite sex over the past 10 years?
Fox 5 reported on this a day after the Post’s article, stating that: “The school district says parents were notified by a letter ahead of time and were allowed to opt out of they chose. However, to their knowledge, no one did.” That made us wonder what this “letter” actually said. Had parents actually been told about all of this? So we checked it out, first by reaching out to the school principal for a copy (with no success), and then through an official Virginia Freedom of Information Act request. They got the message, and we got the letter.
And what do you know…we noticed that the letter never even hinted at an opportunity for parents to opt their children out of this event. Nor did it say anything about an LGBTQ transgender activist reading to the children and discussing these topics with them. We also confirmed that the principal only sent the letter out in English, despite having a significant number of families in the school whose parents speak another primary language.
After our team unveiled what various news outlets were evidently uninterested in discovering, we let our coalition friends know, and this story quickly spread like wildfire, being featured on places like Townhall, The Federalist, The Daily Wire, Life Site News, and One News Now, as well as various talk and radio shows.
There is much we could say about all this, but we think all of this sufficiently speaks for itself. Be assured that we will continue to closely watch, unveil, and call out these increasingly frequent attempts to indoctrinate children into these destructive ideologies. And if you learn of something happening in your locality, please let us know so that we can address it. We all must be more vigilant than ever.
Your support makes our vigilance possible. Please consider making a donation today to help us continue our work!
Pro-Family Tax Reform [General Assembly Update Part 5]Mar. 22, 2019
For our final edition of the 2019 General Assembly recap, The Family Foundation is thrilled to report on the successful tax reform that passed this year and was signed by the Governor.
After the Trump administration signed the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that went into effect in 2018, Virginia soon realized it was set to receive an unanticipated windfall in state revenues of nearly one billion dollars. Leading up to the 2019 General Assembly session, the legislature had to decide what to do with all that extra money.
Thankfully, they chose to give the $1 billion back to the taxpayers. In what marks one of the biggest state tax reform measures in modern memory, the legislature worked out a plan that would return that revenue to the people who were actually paying it. HB 2529 (R-Hugo) made a number of positive family-friendly changes to Virginia’s tax code, including:
Increasing the state standard deduction from $3,000 to $4,500 for individuals and from $6,000 to $9,000 for couples, which will take effect with next year’s tax filings;
Retaining the current deduction on state and local taxes, instead of adopting the $10,000 cap in last year’s federal tax changes; and
Providing taxpayers a credit of $110 for individuals and $220 for couples filing jointly to be distributed in October
During the year leading up to the 2019 session, The Family Foundation was apart of a workgroup coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Institute to put forward a proposal for what to do about the windfall in revenue that was coming to the state. Along with several other conservative groups, we helped craft and jointly endorsed a tax reform plan that looked a lot like the one that ultimately passed.
This was a very big deal, even as it didn't get nearly as much attention in light of all the other issues during the session. By keeping taxes low, we help keep government small, limited, and thereby less likely to infringe upon the liberties we hold so dear. This was a major highlight of the 2019 session and we were proud to play a part in its success.
Action Alert: Proposed Regulations to Punish and Silence Faith-Based CounselorsMar. 19, 2019
Since the radical Left has tried and failed year after year in the legislature to silence counselors from sharing with clients the self-evident realities of human identity and sexuality, the current administration is now eyeing an alternative path to accomplish this censorship: administrative regulations. The state Boards of Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work have now begun the process of adopting Guidance Documents and full-scale regulations to stifle licensed professionals’ free speech rights, with the direct consequence of denying patients their basic right to direct the objectives of the counseling they seek.
ACTION: Click HERE to enter a comment on the townhall.gov website, and tell the VA Board of Counseling not to punish licensed counselors for helping patients overcome their unwanted sexual feelings by affirming biological realities concerning male and female. (Click on “Enter a comment”)
To learn more about the context of the issue, read our blogs about it here and here.
The public comment period to weigh in on this ideologically-driven movement officially begins today and will end on 4/17/19. The Board of Counseling members need to hear from the public about why this action would be wrong, dangerous, and unconstitutional.
The health regulatory boards have labeled the practice of helping someone overcome unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria as “conversion therapy,” when in reality it should more rightly be characterized as “Biological Affirmation Counseling.” Notice how extreme the Board’s definition of “conversion therapy” is in its draft Guidance Document and how much of an obvious double standard it sets up:
“For the purposes of this guidance ‘conversion therapy’ … is defined as any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of any gender.”
BUT THEN, the Board continues…
“’Conversion therapy’ does not include counseling that provides assistance to a person undergoing gender transition or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a person or facilitates a person's coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual-orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as such counseling does not seek to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity in any direction.”
In other words, counselors are ALLOWED to help a minor client to explore and facilitate same-sex feelings, attractions and behaviors, or even to “change” their sex altogether, but they are strictly PROHIBITED from helping a minor client struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions from developing a natural and Biblical sexual ethic, or aiding a child dealing with gender dysphoria in learning to embrace his or her biological status as either male or female. So, children can change in one direction, but not the other.
The Board’s “guidance” to counselors is clear and simple: If you hold to the natural, biological, historical and/or Biblical understanding of human sexuality, be prepared to lose your professional license.
We cannot stand idly by and let this happen. Please CLICK HERE to leave your comment to the Board of Counseling!
Will Virginia Become Las Vegas? [General Assembly Recap PART 4]Mar. 15, 2019
Besides issues involving life and abortion, this year became the year of gambling. There were at least 15 bills to expand gambling in Virginia, including full-scale Vegas-style casinos in as many as five cities, the legalization of sports betting and online gambling, expansion of the Lottery, and the commercialization of charitable gaming. We had our work cut out for us to educate and provide testimony on the many reasons why these predatory industries are a bad bet for Virginia fiscally, economically, and socially.
With over 50 well-paid lobbyists roaming the Capitol halls on behalf of the gambling interests that flooded the Commonwealth this year, in the end SB 1126 (D-Lucas) was the last bill left standing, and the House and Senate versions of the bill could not be further apart. Then late on a Saturday evening, while no one else was at the Capitol and the session was wrapping up its last full day, the bill's conference committee members met to “resolve” the significant differences in the House and Senate versions.
Unfortunately, and to our great surprise, what they created in this back-room deal was a bill that would seem to satisfy the deep pockets of the numerous gambling interests and billionaire benefactors. The legislature essentially threw the entire gambling 'wishlist' – full-scale casinos in five or more cities, college and professional sports betting, online gambling, etc. – into one giant gambling bill. Only one casino in each city would be allowed, and only investors who can put up a minimum of $200 million in capital investments would qualify. (Hence, why we called this "crony capitalism", with the government granting monopolies to favored parties.)
The bill does require a commission to first “study” the matter and provide a report in only about 7 months from now, but with something of this magnitude, a half-year study is nowhere near long enough to show they're serious. The bill also stipulates that casinos have to be approved by the city residents in a voter referendum, but gives no say to the countless people in the adjacent localities who will also be impacted, while also ignoring the fact that big-money interests will likely pump millions into a local referendum to effectively buy the support they'll need. The bill also requires the legislature to pass the bill again next year in order for it to become law, so at least there is still time to influence legislators on these policies.
This gambling 'omnibus' bill reflects a combination of ‘kicking the can down the road’ to give the General Assembly another year to figure out exactly how much and what kinds of new gambling they want to foist upon Virginians, and also a strong legislative 'tipping of the hand' suggesting that they’re primed to expand gambling in one way or another no matter what this “study” uncovers or recommends.
A big part of the challenge this year was that the General Assembly was so preoccupied with other important matters like the ERA, tax reform, abortion and infanticide, and the improper behavior of our top three elected officials, that there was virtually no time - and no real opportunity provided - to engage in any serious policy discussions on the issues of casinos or sports betting. Much more robust discussions need to take place before the General Assembly thinks about making such a major shift in public policy.
Also noteworthy, HJ 658 (R-Pogge), a Constitutional Amendment we drafted that would have required statewide approval of any casino gambling the legislature were to pass, never made it out of committee. The bill was modeled after Florida, whose citizens voted last November by a 71% margin to put this requirement into their state constitution.
The debate over major new gambling schemes in Virginia is far from over. There is still much work and education to be done on these issues over the next year. Stay tuned as things continue to develop.
Tell the Governor NO Tax Dollars for Abortions!Mar. 14, 2019
The General Assembly added three critical pro-life amendments to the state’s budget that will: 1) limit public funding of abortions, 2) strip millions of tax dollars otherwise flowing to abortion facilities through the “LARC” program, and 3) require the Department of Health to report its reasons for approving state-funded abortions. They are now awaiting action by the Governor.
ACTON: Please contact Governor Northam and urge him to agree to these important pro-life budget amendments!
These critically important pro-life provisions hammered out by the House and Senate make this one of the most pro-life budgets we’ve seen in decades. Here is some additional context on each amendment and why they are so important:
1) Limiting the Public Funding of Abortions – “Hyde Amendment”
Introduced by Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33, Hamilton), this measure will bring Virginia in line with the majority of states that align their policies with the federal Hyde Amendment, which limits taxpayer funding for abortions to situations involving rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Current Virginia law allows the state to also pay for elective low-income abortions of unborn children with disabilities. This horrific practice forces taxpayers to fund the death of an unborn child if two physicians who work for the Department of Health think it’s justified. Every life has intrinsic value, regardless of physical or mental challenges, and every child is worthy of life.
2) Stopping the “LARC” Funds from Flowing to Abortion Providers
Introduced by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12, Glen Allen), this measure would modify the Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) program she initially helped introduce that ultimately made it into last year’s budget (over our strong objections), now limiting the use of those funds to only the purchase of the IUD devices by the Department of Health – ensuring that no more actual dollars will go to Planned Parenthood through this program. This amendment comes after the program resulted in nearly $3M in grants being allocated to the abortion industry with very vague language defining its use. While some of that money has already been allocated, we believe in the principle of “better late than never.”
3) Requiring the Health Department to Report its Reasons for Approving State-Funded Abortions
This amendment requires the Department of Health to report monthly on the number of state-funded abortion procedures it approved, along with its rationale for approving these “fetal abnormality” abortions for low-income women. In the past, the Department has refused to divulge its reasons for approving these state-funded abortions, and we speculate they are construing the term broadly, especially as the yearly totals continue to increase. Assuming, however, that the Governor is not able to strip out the Hyde Amendment language, there would no longer be any abortions to report for this provision.
More Threats to Religious Freedom Than Ever [General Assembly Update Part 3]Mar. 13, 2019
This year we faced a record-setting 32 bills aimed at advancing the “LGBTQ” agenda, which not only has a corrosive effect on the family and society, but always inevitably leads to conflicts with religious liberty and conscience rights. These bills included attempts to add special rights for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) to virtually every area of the law. (e.g. in housing, employment, businesses, public accommodations, health insurance benefit requirements, apprenticeships, hate crimes, assisted conception/surrogacy, etc.)
Numerous bills sought to completely erase distinctions between men and women by making the Code language “gender neutral.” Others sought to: make it virtually effortless for anyone to legally "change" their sex on official documents, establish gender-neutral dress codes for boys and girls in schools, require insurance companies to pay all the costs of a person's [completely unnecessary] "sex reassignment/transition" therapies and surgeries, and scrub all traces of Virginia’s one-man/one-woman marriage statute and Constitutional Amendment from the books.
Incredibly, we helped defeat 31 out of 32 of those efforts to redefine male, female, moms, dads, wives, husbands, and the family as created by God (and self-evident in nature). These bills would have generated serious conflicts with religious liberty, conscience, and privacy rights, while undermining some of society's most basic and fundamental truths. We cannot overstate how big a deal these results are.
Unfortunately, one bill – HB 1979, a profoundly anti-family and anti-life bill – did pass despite our best efforts to convince legislators of its harms. It now awaits the Governor’s expected signature. This legislation, sold as a bill to "fix" some of the "barriers" to assisted conception and surrogacy contracts, signifies a dramatic and harmful policy shift concerning the creation and treatment of human life, the rights of children, the legal basis for parenthood, the significance of marriage, and the dynamics of the parent-child relationship. It was purportedly designed to make it easier for same-sex couples to create children they are otherwise incapable of producing naturally. But the bill went much further than even that by effectively allowing for the commodification of lab-created babies who no longer need to have any genetic tie to either "parent", and also by allowing any unmarried single person to contract with someone to acquire a baby - thus purposely ensuring a child is born without a mother or a father. You can read a more complete overview of the issue on our blog here.
The most important bill this session designed to protect religious freedom was SB 1778 (R-Newman), which sought to protect the free speech and religious exercise rights of counselors as well as the ability of minors struggling with their sexual identity to receive meaningful counseling. (A national movement has dubbed this “conversion therapy.”) While the bill initially prevailed on a vote of the full Senate, it was unfortunately derailed due to an unexpected tactical move the following day, despite the known fact that several state health regulatory boards are planning to prohibit counselors and psychologists from providing this type of counseling. You can read the full story of this bill on our blog here.
Overall, it was a highly successful year on this front, but we do not expect it to get easier from here. Much credit belongs to various members of the House leadership for strategically and courageously heading off the many serious threats to religious liberty and to the very fabric of civil society.
Parental Rights: Several Big Wins and a Few Near Wins [2019 General Assembly Recap Part 2]Mar. 08, 2019
2019 became a big year for parents. We fought hard to pass several important bills to afford parents more options, involvement, and oversight in their children’s education. These initiatives were often our most strategic and time-consuming legislative battles, even while they were frequently overshadowed by the more hot-button issues. HB 2107 (R-Ransone) was one great bill that has made it to the Governor’s desk. It provides parents the opportunity to review any audio-visual materials that contain graphic sexual or violent images used in conjunction with any anti-bullying or suicide prevention lessons in public schools, and the ability to exclude their child if they deem the materials too graphic.
Unfortunately, HB 2570 (R-LaRock), which would have required schools to obtain parents’ permission for their child to participate in the Family Life Education ("Sex Ed") lessons, failed in the Senate after passing the House with a hard-fought 51 votes. We made this a major priority this year, in light of all the new graphic and aggressively-ideological messaging that is being pushed onto kids in various school districts. We will keep fighting to make this common-sense policy a reality for families.
The flagship school choice initiative in Virginia – the Education Investment Scholarship Tax Credit Program – was successfully expanded to pre-kindergarten this year through the passage of SB 1015 (R-Stanley), and now awaits the Governor’s action. The program has been a huge success in recent years and continues to enable more children in families who cannot otherwise afford private education to receive a private scholarship to use towards a qualifying private school. It's another step towards ensuring that parents to have every opportunity to get the best possible education for their children, according to their values. SB 1590(R-Dunnavant) was another good education choice bill that would have expanded the online “Virtual Virginia” program to all public schools statewide. Unfortunately, after passing the Senate, it failed in the House.
Numerous bills sought to provide protections and opportunities for homeschooled students. Among them, SB 1275 (R-Black) would have allowed home-schooled high school students to participate in the federally-sponsored Junior ROTC program at their local school. After a hard-fought battle, having passed in the Senate, it was defeated on a tie vote in a House Committee. A bill to allow homeschool students to participate in the Driver’s Ed program at their local public school also unfortunately failed.
Finally, HB 2542 (R-Byron) is another great bill that passed and awaits the Governor’s action. It seeks to keep families together by allowing for the temporary delegation of parental or legal custodial powers to a trusted third party for families facing a crisis or extraordinary circumstances. Instead of having to enter “the system” of Social Services, qualifying parents could work with a licensed child-placing agency to have someone care for their kids for a limited time in order for them to work out family problems, deploy overseas for a combat tour, or other scenarios like these.
Overall, despite a few razor-thin losses on a couple of important bills we fought hard to advance, we are thrilled to report that 2019 saw significant gains for parental rights and options!