2019 was the year of surprises and victories for Life at the Virginia General Assembly

By Olivia Gans Turner, President, Virginia Society for Human Life (VSHL)

Olivia Gans Turner, President Virginia Society for Human Life (VSHL)

When the General Assembly opened on January 9th and the pro-abortion Equal Rights Amendment was the first bill heard in the Senate, few could have predicted how much would happen in the weeks that followed!

In total, eight different pro-abortion bills were introduced, including the ERA designed to strip away Virginia’s hard-won protective pro-life laws and prevent any new ones from ever being passed. One by one the slim one vote pro-life majority in both Chambers struck the bills down. By the final hours of the session, the fight to save lives was all about defeating the ERA and ensuring that the budget did not include state funding for abortions beyond those very limited numbers allowed under the Hyde amendment.

Many of you may have been surprised that the sub-committee vote on the ERA was not the end of the fight. Pro-abortion supporters of the ERA made it clear after the sub-committee voted to “Pass By” the ERA this year that they were not done and that they would use any legislative trick they could find to force the ERA to the floor.

VSHL worked very closely with pro-life leaders in the House of Delegates and the Senate to defend our pro-life laws and protect against any such attacks on Virginia’s pro-life laws. At the end of the day, the final vote to force a vote on the ERA was defeated on a tie vote, 50-50.

What just took place illustrates just how hard we must all work hard to regain a strong pro-life majority in the General Assembly.

Impact of New York’s “Reproductive Health Act”

Perhaps none of us could have predicted the effect of New York’s horrible new pro-abortion law on the activity in Richmond.

While Virginians joined other Americans in their shock and disgust at New York’s Reproductive Health Act, it was the diligence and insight of the pro-life members of the House Courts of Justice that changed the course of the debate. As the whole country knows now, Delegate Kathy Tran’s bill HB 2491 would have stripped protective provisions in the Commonwealth on abortion all the way up to birth!

VSHL is so grateful to Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), for leading the excellent questioning during the hearing which drew out the truth in which Tran admitted abortion would be legal through “40 weeks”! Click here for the video of the questioning between Del. Gilbert and Del. Tran.

Governor Ralph Northam, appearing on a program on WTOP radio, declared that late-term abortions are “done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s not viable. So, in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Gov. Northam’s comments have created a firestorm across the country and continue to shock Virginians who are stunned that he, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, and the Democratic members of the Virginia General Assembly all support the same radical agenda to allow abortion for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy with no restrictions and to make abortion a fundamental right in the Commonwealth’s Constitution!

Opposition to their deadly goals are now a rallying cry for Virginia’s pro-life voters determined to prevent those plans and add to the pro-life majority in the General Assembly in November, when the entire 100 members of the House of Delegates and 40 members of State Senate will be up for election.

Surprising victories in the final Budget and on the last day of floor action in the House of Delegates.

The federal Hyde Amendment only allows for tax funded abortion for the life of the mother or rape and incest situations. After years of struggling to convince members of the General Assembly to stop using Virginia tax funds to pay for certain abortions under the state interpretation of the Hyde Amendment, there is good news.

This year the budget conferees and the House and Senate added an amendment offered by Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun) to stop using state funds to pay for abortion under Medicaid for babies who might be born with a severe fetal abnormality. That term has never been properly defined, so there is no way to know what conditions were actually identified before such abortions happened. Anything might be called a “severe fetal abnormality” when the abortionist has the final say.

Since 2012 the numbers of state-funded abortions have jumped significantly. Since 2016 there have been 71 such abortion paid for with state taxpayer funds. This happened during the administrations of pro-abortion Governors McAuliffe and Northam.

There is still a possibility that Gov. Northam might try to strip out this new Hyde language during the veto session. We will keep you informed about how to protect it.

Curiously, there is also a budget item that would require the Virginia Health Department to identify specific medical diagnosis for why any such abortions was performed. If the new Hyde language holds that may no longer be needed. So, VSHL will continue to monitor this outcome.

One last surprise! Premature Babies have a Right to Life!

Del. Kathy Byron offered a remarkable floor amendment on the last Friday of the session to a resolution brought from the Senate. The resolution, SJ 299, introduced by pro-abortion Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-9th), was from the March of Dimes to honor World Prematurity Day. Del. Byron’s floor amendments to the resolution highlighted the great progress that has been made to help these preemies survive and thrive and acknowledged that premature babies have a right to life and deserve medical care.

In the end, after a short but intense debate, the resolution passed in the House of Delegates with only eight members, all Democrats, opposing it: Ayala, Herring, Kory, Levine, Price, Rasoul, Simon, and Toscano.

Unfortunately, the amended resolution with the new pro-life language failed in the Senate.

The State Senate and House of Delegates will reconvene at the Capitol for the veto session on April 3rd. Please join us that day for a March for Life and Rally in Richmond to show the legislators and Governor your support for protecting Life.

Please also continue to share our Stop Infanticide Petition with your family and friends.