Tell Your Delegate: Don't Force Virginians to Pay for AbortionsJan 24, 2019
Last week I told you about how several radical abortion bills were defeated that would have increased the number and profitability of abortions in Virginia. Legislators narrowly voted to uphold common-sense health and safety regulations on abortion facilities, which protect the lives of women and unborn children. The battle over unborn life continues, but now it’s the pro-life legislators leading the charge.
At The Family Foundation’s request, Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Campbell) introduced HJ 715 which ensures that Virginia, like several other states have done, guarantees in our state Constitution that tax dollars won’t fund abortions. The proposed amendment states:
“No taxes or other revenues of the Commonwealth may be used to pay for abortions, provided that nothing herein shall prevent the use of such funds to preserve the life of the mother.”
Please contact your Delegate now and urge them to vote YES on HJ 715!
While our culture is deeply divided over the practice of abortion itself, most people agree that those who oppose abortion should not be compelled to pay for it through their tax dollars. In fact, The Family Foundation initiated a Mason-Dixon Poll in December asking registered Virginia voters: “Do you support or oppose taxpayer funding of abortion?” The result was encouraging: 56% of Virginians OPPOSE taxpayer funding of abortion, and only 34% say they support it. (with 10% undecided)
The right to life is the most basic human right guaranteed by our Constitution. As long as unborn persons cease to receive protection for their right to life, the least we can do is guarantee that Virginia citizens do not have to pay for the denial of that right. Because of the profound implications to the rights to life and religious liberty, the Constitution is the most appropriate place for this guarantee.
Constitutional Amendments limiting the use of public funds are not new to Virginia. In 2000, Virginians approved an Amendment restricting the use of Lottery funds to education. If we can approve a constitutional amendment that places limits on how Lottery funds are used, then we can certainly approve an amendment to prevent our tax dollars from paying for abortions!
Every year the General Assembly fights over this issue of using public dollars to fund abortions in the state budget. Since the state budget effectively overrides the state Code, elevating it to the Constitution is the only way to ensure that it is not constantly treated as a “political football” every year.
ACTION: Please contact your Delegate and urge them to vote YES on HJ 715 so you don’t have to fund the taking of innocent life.
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.