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Virginia Legislature Advances Bills to Loosen Abortion Restrictions

Lori Arnold | Contributor | Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Virginia Legislature Advances Bills to Loosen Abortion Restrictions

Virginia Legislature Advances Bills to Loosen Abortion Restrictions

Two years after the Virginia legislature declared Jan. 22—the Roe v. Wade anniversary—as the "Day of Tears in Virginia," in memory of "the innocents who have lost their lives to abortion," the Democrat-controlled governing body is poised to dismantle the state’s pro-life protections.

Liberals hit the trifecta in November after voters there secured Democratic majorities in both the House of Delegates and state Senate, erecting an impenetrable wall with Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam—for the first time in nearly three decades.

Last week, a House committee advanced a bill to the floor that would allow nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives to perform first-trimester abortions while eliminating regulations mandating a 24-hour waiting period and ultrasounds before such procedures. It would also roll back a law requiring clinics performing more than a few abortions a month have hospital-equivalent facility standards.

Additionally, all health coverage plans would be required to cover the costs of services, drugs, devices and procedures related to abortions under the umbrella of reproductive health.

"We'd had decades of barriers and restrictions put up here in the Commonwealth and so we have a lot of work to do," Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, told NPR’s WAMU 88.5.

State Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko, a chief co-sponsor of one of the bills, said the legislation “will remove political interference between a woman and her doctor. We are going to say goodbye to treating abortion providers differently from other health-care providers.

“The bottom line here is once a woman decides to have an abortion, it should be safe, it should be affordable, it should be free of punishment or judgment.”

Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, called the bill “deceptive.”

“It suggests that women ... cannot understand the warnings we are given,” she said. “We are not children, and we can make our own decisions. Twenty-four hours is not too long to wait.”

In a statement following the committee’s vote, Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation, questioned the legislature’s motives.

“Unfortunately, the new majority of the General Assembly was bought and paid for by the $1 billion abortion industry, and it is bent on ensuring that profits increase for Planned Parenthood at the expense of women,” she said.

Republican Delegate Dave LaRock called the legislation "a giant step backwards" while acknowledging there was little his party could do to stop the action.

"I wish I could say we have an effective strategy," he said, adding, "there is not much respect for the viewpoints of people who prefer to continue with the laws as they are.”

The move by Democrats to loosen restrictions was not unexpected. As Christian Headlines reported a year ago, Northam drew national attention during a radio interview about a pending pro-abortion bill. That bill, which was eventually tabled by the then-Republican majority, would have allowed a woman to abort her baby up until delivery if a doctor certified she was at risk mentally or physically.

During the interview, Northam talked about instances where there “may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that's non-viable.

"In this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen," the governor said. "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."

Northam’s comments, labeled by many as defending infanticide, prompted Virginia’s pro-life advocates to hold a Day of Mourning to fast and pray.

Following the lead of their Republican counterparts who issued the "Day of Tears in Virginia" declaration in 2017, Democrats are now proposing Jan. 22 be declared the “Day of Women in Virginia” to "celebrate women in leadership."

Although expanding abortion rights was center stage in conjunction with the Roe v. Wade anniversary, Virginia lawmakers have also advanced gun-control bills and passed the Equal Rights Amendment, even though the Department of Justice recently issued an opinion that the deadline to ratify the 1972 constitutional amendment has expired.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Sean Pavone Photo

Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.