In Virginia’s November election, Democrats won the majority of seats in both the state House and Senate. With Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam at the helm, the state is blue for the first time in 26 years.
Lead Democratic candidates campaigned on a radical abortion platform, promising to make abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy accessible and remove other restrictions. Abortion-related groups were the second-largest single-interest donor category in the 2019 election, spending more than $3 million.
“Democrats will certainly repeal many protections for women and unborn children, in order to allow Planned Parenthood to expedite the abortion process and increase their profits. Whether or not Democrats will follow the lead of Governor Northam and push for a law to allow abortion practitioners to withhold care for babies who survive an attempted abortion will remain to be seen,” said Del. Dave LaRock (R-District 33).
Earlier this year, Northam publicly stated that the decision to end the life of a child who survived an attempted abortion was between a physician and mother, citing “severe deformities” as one reason to end the life of a child after birth.
As the next General Assembly is set to open January 8, pro-abortion leaders in the Senate and House are making good on their promise to push a radical pro-abortion agenda in the legislature. Bills already introduced for a vote in the upcoming session include multiple versions of the Equal Rights Amendment (which legally mandates abortion access), removing parental consent for minors’ abortions from law, two bills eliminating the requirement that a mother have an ultrasound before making an abortion decision, and a bill that would amend the Virginia Constitution to make abortion access a permanent legal right.
“There’s no reason to remove basic safety regulations and informed consent laws…before making a permanent and irreversible decision,” said Olivia Gans-Turner, the Virginia Society for Human Life president. “The immediate effect is to put women in harm’s way. Laws like the ultrasound law in Virginia or the 24-hour waiting period do not …simply respect women’s intelligence, they respect that a woman may be under coercion or confusion about what [her] legal rights may be and the facts of the unborn child’s development.”
Turner also expects a bill requiring taxpayers to fund abortions in the state. Removing the ultrasound requirement means mothers “won’t have a full knowledge of that life that is inside her,” she said. “As one patient who was considering abortion told us, ‘When I saw the ultrasound I fell in love with my baby.’ We ask ourselves, why is the other side so threatened by a woman falling in love with her baby? What is really going on here?”
The Cost of Heroes
While Democrats push for more unborn deaths, a strong architecture of pro-life medical professionals and supporters are mobilizing free care for women in crisis pregnancies and expanding a new field of medicine, perinatal hospice programs, across the state.
Care Net Pregnancy Resource Centers (Care Net PRCs) has helped stand up approximately 3,000 pregnancy centers across the country. Regional organizations operate independently and are run by individual boards of directors. Care Net PRCs in northern Virginia run on charity, and are funded entirely by individuals and churches in the surrounding communities.
Thes organizations provide free medical care, including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, consultation with medical professionals, plus adoption referrals. They also offer parenting and prenatal classes, as well as counseling for post-abortive women in distress.
“The elections in VA remind us that we need to be realistic about the culture in which we find ourselves,” said Care Net PRCs CEO Becky Sheetz. “Our focus is the woman in the counseling room or the waiting room right now. We provide free pregnancy medical services to one woman at a time, and give her hope and truth about her pregnancy and her options. Our vision is that every woman and every man struggling with an unplanned pregnancy would come through our doors and be transformed…Only God can change hearts, and we are grateful that He uses us.”
Mobilizing and Connecting
A new effort, Prolife Action Network of Northern Virginia, or PLAN, mobilized this fall to connect needy families with charitable efforts: adoption agencies, medical opportunities, legal advice, housing, and more. Duplication of resources and lack of communication between service organizations has resulted in missed opportunities to help vulnerable women in the past.
“We’re creating a network to link all of these various programs so we can really see a family’s health not hurt by lacking resources,” Gans-Turner said. “Sometimes it’s a whole families in crisis, out of work with language barriers and literacy barriers, lots of reasons why people often think the only option they have is to have an abortion.”
Mobile ultrasounds are an incredibly powerful tool to legitimize what a woman cannot see without their help, Sheetz said. CareNet is rolling out a tool that gives a woman digital images of her ultrasound to open and share from a mobile device.
CareNet also educates women on adoption and refers to adoption agencies if clients are interested. “Women frequently have a very poor understanding of adoption,” Sheetz said. “Overwhelmingly, the understanding of what pregnancy is and how that baby develops are poorly understood by most of the women and men who come to us.”
Groundbreaking Hospice Care
A new area of medicine in obstetrics, perinatal hospice care, caters to women whose pregnancy receives a poor prognosis. The modern “progressive” approach for an at-risk fetus is abortion; pro-life programs explore more holistic care.
“The goal is to provide the best standard of medical care as far into the pregnancy for mother and baby with the possibility of delivering the baby so there is an opportunity for the family to meet,” Gans-Turner said. “Religious tradition can be applied, the baby can be named. Siblings can meet their brother or sister.”
Five hospitals currently offer perinatal hospice care programs in Virginia. Tepeyac OB/GYN, a pro-life obstetrics and gynecology practice in Fairfax, Virginia, first broke ground on the model more than a decade ago.
“The idea that it’s medically necessary to abort is growing more false as medicine advances,” Gans-Turner said, contrary to how abortion is often posed as the “only option” in a high-risk pregnancy.
Legislation has passed in several states requiring physicians to inform pregnant patients who are considered high risk for fetal death of perinatal hospice programs.
“There is a palpable positive energy in the pro-life movement,” said Will Waldron, president of Divine Mercy Care, a non-profit umbrella organization advancing pro-life health care in the state. “There is optimism in what we are doing and we are seeing more collaboration with other ministries in the movement. There is more work to do, however, and we could be better at working together, but I have seen a marked improvement in the last couple of years.”
Bills introduced for the upcoming session:
- SJ 5, Sen. Saslaw, ERA, and SJ 1, McClellan, ERA
- HJ 1 (ERA), Del. Carroll Foy
- SJ 2, Sen. Saslaw, a pro-abortion amendment to the Virginia Constitution
- SB 21, Sen. Saslaw, overturns multiple pro-life laws, including parental consent, 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound law
- SB 68, Sen. Locke, overturns protective ultrasound pro-life law.