This Week at the 2022 General Assembly–Week 4
The 2022 Virginia General Assembly has completed its fourth week of work. Since even-year sessions are 60 days long, the House and Senate are nearly halfway done! Crossover Day – the day after which the House can only consider Senate-passed bills and the Senate can only consider House-passed bills – is February 15, so committees in both chambers are scrambling to get through their enormous amount of work, often meeting late into the night to ensure decisions get made before the deadline.
To make your voices heard at this especially critical point in session, please attend Defending Life Day on February 9th in Richmond! This event will bring together the pro-life voice of Virginia into the halls and offices of the General Assembly building. It falls just under one week before Crossover Day, so showing how many Virginians support vital legislation like banning state funding for abortions, a Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, and restoring Virginia’s informed consent law is incredibly important and timely. Watch this video on Defending Life Day’s importance, and sign up to attend!
Assisted Suicide: Yesterday a bill to make assisted suicide legal was defeated in a 7-7 tie vote in a Senate committee. We led the way in opposing this legislation. As we stated at the bill hearing, every person facing the end of life should have access to quality medical and palliative care – not means to intentionally hasten his or her death. The defeat of this measure is a victory for life and we especially thank all committee members who voted against the bill and all members of our network who contacted their senators to oppose it.
Mandating IVF Coverage: Late last night, a bill we opposed that would have mandated health insurance plans in Virginia to cover a range of infertility treatments and procedures was defeated 6-4. Many ways of treating infertility provide needed and compassionate assistance. The legislation, however, would have forced health plans to cover some procedures – including in vitro fertilization (IVF) – to which many have religious or moral objections. Laura Elms with Sacred Heart Guardians and Shelter provided expert testimony on this topic, and we are grateful for her witness.
Transgender policies in public schools: In 2020, we opposed legislation – now law – mandating that all school boards adopt model transgender policies set by the Department of Education. This year, introduced legislation sought to give school boards final authority over whether to adopt transgender policies. We supported the bill, but on Thursday a Senate committee defeated it 8-5. Fortunately, on Tuesday, companion House legislation passed a subcommittee 4-2 and will be heard in full committee soon. Public schools should not force children to share showers, locker rooms, and other intimate settings with members of the opposite sex, and should not encourage, in some cases, irreversible “gender transitions".
Sexually explicit instructional content: As we have seen over the last several years, especially in Albemarle County and in Northern Virginia, public school students are often exposed to obscene or sexually explicit content in the classroom and in extracurricular activities without parental knowledge, much less consent. Legislation introduced in the Senate and House would require parental consent annually before sexually explicit content is included in a child’s lessons. This legislation would also permit parental review of the materials, and provide alternative, non-sexually-explicit materials to any student upon a parent’s request. In a major victory, a Senate Committee approved this parental notification bill on Thursday by a vote of 8-7. A similar House bill is pending in committee and should receive consideration in the coming week.
Limiting isolated confinement: Today, the Senate passed, by a 21-18 vote, legislation to limit isolated confinement in prisons to no more than 15 consecutive days in any 60-day period. We support the bill as an appropriate way to curb the damaging effects of this practice while simultaneously protecting the life, dignity and safety of all members of a prison community. The measure now heads to the House.
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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.