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This Week at the 2019 Virginia General Assembly-Week 2

January 18, 2019 by Jeff Caruso

This Week at the 2019 Virginia General Assembly-Week 2

The 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly is in full swing. Here are some key developments this week.

Abortion and pregnant women safety:  We played a key role in defeating two bills yesterday that sought to remove critically needed informed consent laws and health and safety regulations for abortions. SB 1054 (Locke) focused on repealing informed consent abortion laws, including the requirement that an ultrasound be conducted for health and safety reasons, and to provide the pregnant woman the opportunity to view the ultrasound image of her unborn child before an abortion. SB 1451 (McClellan) also sought to remove these informed consent provisions, and would have eliminated health and safety standards for abortions and abortion facilities.  These bills failed in an 8-7 vote.

An unprecedented bill in Virginia, (SB 1637, Boysko), sought to add the “right to reproductive choice” aka “right to abortion” into the Virginia Human Rights Act. The bill would have expressly made access to abortion, contraception and sterilization a “fundamental right” in our state law, in direct contradiction to the fundamental right to life. The Governor’s administration spoke in support of the bill. “The administration does strongly support this bill,” said the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources. “We see this not just as a women’s issue but an economic justice issue; and one that promotes having access to reproductive healthcare, comprehensive reproductive health care, is one that is deeply connected to promoting strong families.” Fortunately, this measure was defeated in an 8-7 party line vote.  
Death penalty: Yesterday, the Virginia Senate voted 23-17 to pass a bill (SB 1137, Favola) that would exempt people with severe mental illness from the death penalty. This is an historic step forward and marks a positive shift in the debate on capital punishment. The Commonwealth already spares juveniles and those with intellectual or developmental disabilities from the death penalty.  SB 1137 would simply ensure that those with serious mental illness receive the same humane treatment in the criminal justice system. Next action: A House of Delegates committee will consider the bill after February 5th – “crossover day.”
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): In a further update from last week, the ERA (SJ 270, Saslaw & SJ 284, Sturtevant) passed 26-14 on the Senate floor on Wednesday. The ERA is harmful to the unborn. In New Mexico, the ERA arguments of NARAL and Planned Parenthood succeeded. On the basis of its state ERA, the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled that limits on taxpayer funding for abortion equaled “sex discrimination,” thereby requiring taxpayer funding of abortions. The House Privileges and Elections Committee will hear the ERA soon. There is still time to stop it!  Act now to stop the ERA and be on the lookout for how to become involved!   
Join us for Vespers: Please plan to attend an evening of prayer for the Commonwealth. This annual event brings together Virginia’s bishops, legislators, Catholics and people of all faiths as we pray for our civic leaders and the needs of the Commonwealth. The fourth annual Virginia Vespers will be on Tuesday, February 12th at 5pm at Richmond’s historic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. A wine and appetizer reception follows.  Sign up here.

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In prayer and in public, your voices are urgently needed to bring Gospel values to bear on vital decisions being made by those who represent you.
The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public policy agency representing Virginia’s Catholic bishops and their two dioceses.