My reflections and musings on the struggle to leave a Christ-shaped impression on the world of law and public policy.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Proposal to Raise the Bar

I think our standards are way too low. Many are claiming "victory" after the passage of a Virginia pro-life amendment that opts out of funding Obamacare insurance coverage for abortions EXCEPT where the mother's life is in danger or where the child was conceived through an "alleged" rape or incest. I would call it a partial victory. Is a human being created in the image of God any less of a human being because of the mother's medical condition or the circumstances of its conception? With regard to the "life of the mother" exception, keep in mind that we are talking about taxpayer funding for the intentional killing of the child. Medical procedures intended to merely save the mother's life (but not performed for the purpose of killing the child) would not be considered "abortion" even if the child died as a result of the procedure. They would still be covered even without this exception. I've been digging around a little bit, trying to figure out if there is any legal reason behind the exception to the abortion opt-out. The exception tracks the language of the federal Hyde Amendment, but why aren't the states at least trying for a complete opt-out that does not include the exceptions? The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require the government to fund the exercise of a woman's "right to choose." Here is the language from Harris v. McRae: "Although the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause affords protection against unwarranted government interference with freedom of choice in the context of certain personal decisions, it does not confer an entitlement to such funds as may be necessary to realize all the advantages of that freedom. To hold otherwise would mark a drastic change in our understanding of the Constitution. It cannot be that because government may not prohibit the use of contraceptives, ... or prevent parents from sending their child to a private school, ... government, therefore, has an affirmative constitutional obligation to ensure that all persons have the financial resources to obtain contraceptives or send their children to private schools. To translate the limitation on governmental power implicit in the Due Process Clause into an affirmative funding obligation would require Congress to subsidize the medically necessary abortion of an indigent woman even if Congress had not enacted a Medicaid program to subsidize other medically necessary services. Nothing in the Due Process Clause supports such an extraordinary result. Whether freedom of choice that is constitutionally protected warrants federal subsidization is a question for Congress to answer, not a matter of constitutional entitlement." By this logic, the Constitution does not require state governments to fund abortion even where the mother's life is in danger or the child was conceived through rape or incest. We're not even talking about outlawing abortions under these circumstances--we're only talking about not forcing taxpayers to fund them. If the decision to include the exceptions in Virginia's opt-out was politically based, I would like to know if anyone even tried to push for a stronger opt-out, or did we just assume that it wasn't feasible? Who is steering this ship? I know that the "best" can sometimes by the enemy of the "good," but there are other times when the "good" is just plain old "settling." Let's raise the bar, Virginia.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Defeated? Yes...and No!

By a straight, party-line vote (10-5), the Senate Education and Health Committee voted to "pass by indefinitely" House Bill 1440. That means that the bill will go no further this year, and will not be called for a vote by the full Senate.

This was completely expected. In fact, today was just another "Black Thursday," so named because every single year in recent history, this Committee kills all of the pro-life legislation that managed to make it through the House of Delegates.

Today, for instance, the Senate Education and Health Committee killed not only this bill on which I have been working, but also the much-needed abortion clinic safety bill, the bill that would prevent insurance plans in Virginia's health insurance exchange from providing abortion coverage, and the bill that would keep HPV vaccines for young girls from being considered "mandatory."

I was proud of Delegate Bob Marshall, the chief patron of my bill, as he introduced the legislation by making it absolutely clear that it should not have even been heard in the Ed & Health Committee, but rather in the Courts Committee! But this assignment was no mere oversight--it is part of a plan.

Despite Senate Rules requirements that each standing committee reflect the overall composition of the entire Senate (22 Democrats, 18 Republicans), this Committee is comprised of 10 Democrats and 5 Republicans. I'm no mathemetician, but those ratios don't pan out as far as I'm concerned.

Moreover, the 10 Democrats on the Committee are not just any Democrats; a review of their voting records reveals them as the most hardened pro-abortion legislators in the Senate.

My experience this year has convinced me that Virginians need to know that these games are being played by their government.

Am I discouraged? No. It has been an honor to do this work. I am inspired by William Wilberforce, who didn't just take a stab at ending slavery once or twice, but who devoted his career to it. Isn't this cause just as important?

Finally, the Weltys (always my encouragers in this endeavor), reminded me this morning of a passage from Ephesians:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:11-13)

Friends, we stood firm today.

If you want to know the truth about what I'm feeling tonight, it's simply this: relief for a break in the battle, satisfaction that we have done all we could do, gratitude for the privilege of carrying His banner, comfort in your prayers and support, hope in His sovereign plan, and confidence in His ultimate victory.

Thank you again for all of your prayers and encouragement.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Virginia House of Delegates Passes The Inalienable Right to Life Bill

Praise God! The bill passed the House yesterday by a vote of 62-36!

On the floor of the House, the legislation faced fierce opposition from three delegates who were on the Subcommittee and Committee where the bill was debated for the past two years. What was telling about their arguments was that they largely centered on the language of the bill that states that "life begins at conception." They objected to the fact that pregnant women and their doctors would have to "consider" the unborn child as a living human being as they make "health care decisions." (!)

In short, their fundamental objection is to the bill's simple statement of Biblical and scientific Truth! But in the end, Truth prevailed in the House of Delegates. To quote a line from Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce's battle against slavery, "There's nothing so lofty about simple humanity."

Friends, the fiercest of battles awaits us in the Senate Committee(s) where the bill will now be heard again. Please continue to stand with us in prayer.

I have no idea whether it will be the pleasure of the King to work a miracle there, but let us stand firm and persist in taking the Truth into darkness.

Finally, if you have not already thanked the legislators of the House Committee on Courts of Justice, please do so (scroll down for the page for the list). But if you only have time to thank two people, please thank Delegate Bob Marshall (, who has been the pro-life champion in the House of Delegates for years, and Delegate David Albo (, the Committee Chairman who had a lot of impact this year on getting the bill through the House.

Thank you all!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


After failing miserably in the Senate Ed & Health Committee on Thursday, The Inalienable Right to Life Bill passed through the House Committee on Courts of Justice last night by a vote of 14-7. Please join me in giving thanks to God for this incredible victory!

Things didn't unfold at all the way I had expected them to. (Isn't that just like our God?) The bill didn't come before the Committee until about 5:00 p.m., and the Chairman had already made it quite clear that he was ready to finish up business and head home for the weekend.

When our bill was called, he announced to the almost-full Committee Room that extensive debate on the constitutionality of the bill had taken place last year, and that the amendments made to the language since then were sufficient to satisfy the Subcommittee's concerns. He therefore was not going to entertain a lengthy debate this time around.

After Delegate Bob Marshall introduced our bill, Chairman Albo asked me to explain to the Committee the purpose of the legislation. I gave my testimony, which, in part, urged the Committee not to accept the unfounded arguments of the bill's opponents. I offered to respond to those arguments in painstaking detail, if necessary.

A few liberal Committee members made half-hearted statements objecting to the bill as a measure that would chip away at women's freedom to "make healthcare decisions," but none of them actually asked me any questions. One of them said, "since no one is going to change their mind, why don't we just vote?" The Committee then voted to report the bill to the full House. The Chairman did not even allow the lobbyists from Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU to speak!

As we left, I felt oddly let down. After all that happened last year, I was ready for a real fight! On the way home, the Weltys reminded me that this hearing was the culmination of many months of building relationships, reminding legislators of their commitments, researching the answers to their questions and responding to objections.

But what we all realized was that the way things unfolded made it perfectly clear that this battle was truly the Lord's. I didn't win anyone over last night with my well-prepared arguments! God won them--over the course of time--through means that we cannot imagine. But I believe that He may well have used you and me as part of that process, and that is an honor.

Finally, I was impressed that the events of last night bore similarities to the battle of Gideon and the account of Daniel in the lion's den. Gideon and Daniel, respectively, were prepared to engage in battle and, if necessary, to be devoured in service to the Lord's cause. But God did the work. He shut the lions' mouths and sent the enemies away in defeat.

Praise be to Him! He is the same God as He was in the days of Gideon and Daniel! (Don't we forget that sometimes?) Thank you for your faithful prayers. Next up, a vote on the floor of the House and then the Senate Ed & Health Committee, Round 2. Please stay tuned!

Oh, and one more thing--please join me in e-mailing your appreciation to the Delegates listed in my earlier post (scroll down for their e-mail addresses). EVERY ONE OF THEM voted for the bill, perhaps because of your request! You can just say, "Thank you for voting for HB1440."


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prayers for Thursday

I will be headed off to Richmond at an unseemly hour tomorrow morning, along with my faithful advisors/companions, Dean and Janet Welty. 8:30 a.m. will find us in the Senate Education and Health Committee room. This is the Committee many refer to as the "Committee of Death," based on its history of systematically killing any piece of legislation that is even remotely "pro-life."

Senator Mark Obenshain is slated to present his Senate version of The Inalienable Right to Life Bill, and I will be on hand to make a statement in favor of the bill on behalf of The Rutherford Institute and then to answer "questions" from the Committee.

Please pray that I would be wide awake--body, spirit, and mind, and able to articulate the answers to the questions posed, whether posed in good faith or bad. Pray that I would be gracious to the adversaries (who are SURE to be there in full force) and yet that I, and the others there to testify in support of the bill, would be able to boldly stand for Truth and Justice. Please pray that God would grant us wisdom, and that whatever the outcome in this particular Committee, that He would be glorified and His kingdom advanced.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hearing This Week--Your Assistance Needed!

I have been informed by Delegate Dave Albo, Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, that HB1440--our bill--will likely be heard by the full Committee this coming Friday. This is good news, because it means that the bill will not have to survive a subcommittee hearing before being voted on by the full committee.

That said, there are 22 members of this Committee, and we need to be sure that we will have the votes to get the bill through to the floor of the House. If this happens, it will mean a MAJOR victory for the pro-life cause in Virginia.

Would you please take 5-10 minutes of your time to contact the committee members whose votes on this are uncertain? Of course, it's most helpful to contact your own representative, so if you only have a moment to spare, please do that. But I believe that even if you don't live in a legislator's district, it is helpful for you to contact him or her.

Please DO NOT make the mistake of believing that everyone on this list who has labeled himself "pro-life" and/or is a Republican will vote for the bill. As I learned the hard way last year, THIS IS NOT THE WAY IT WORKS! If we want the vote, they must know that people care about the bill and that people are watching to hold them accountable.

Here is the list of committee members who need to be contacted, a description of their districts and their contact info. Below the list is a sample message you could send. It's best to use your own words, but if your time is limited, please feel free to use the sample. Thank you in advance for your commitment to this cause. We must not grow weary in doing good.

Delegate Dave Albo (R) - Part of Fairfax County - - 804-698-1042
Delegate Terry Kilgore (R) - Lee and Scott, Part of Washington and Wise - - 804 - 698-1001
Delegate Bill Janis (R) - Goochland and Louisa, Part of Henrico - - 804 - 698 - 1056
Delegate Rob Bell (R) - Greene, Part of Albemarle, Fluvanna and Orange - - 804 - 698-1058
Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R) - Part of Virginia Beach - - 804-698-1084
Delegate Chris Peace (R) - New Kent, Part of Caroline, Hanover, Henrico, King and Queen, King William and Spotsylvania - - 804-698-1097
Delegate G. M. Loupassi (R) - Part of Chesterfield and Richmond City - - 804-698-1068
Delegate Ron Villanueva (R) - Part of Virginia Beach - - 804-698-1021
Delegate Bill Cleaveland (R) - Part of Botetourt, Roanoke County and Roanoke City - - 804-698-1017
Delegate Gregory Habeeb (R) - - 804-698-1008
Delegate Joe Johnson (D) - Bristol City, Part of Smyth and Washington - - 804-698-1004
Delegate Ward Armstrong (D) - Patrick, Part of Carroll, Henry and Martinsville - - 804-698-1010
Delegate William Barlow (D) - Surry and Williamsburg, Part of Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, and Franklin City - - 804-698 - 1064

Here's what you might say: "I understand that House Bill 1440 is coming before the Courts of Justice Committee later this week. Please vote for this bill. It creates a cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn child and expresses the important principle that human life begins at conception."

Thank you, friends. YOUR voice can make all the difference.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Spiritual Battle

I recently discovered this hymn, written by Isaac Watts. On the days when I need a bit of conviction for my complacency and love of comfort, these lyrics provide plenty...

Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace, to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign. Increase my courage, Lord.
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.

--Isaac Watts

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Tale of Two Marches

This post is the text of a beautiful Viewpoint written by Dean Welty (Director of the Valley Family Forum) and Deb Medlin, an African American woman. Read on...and be inspired.

A BRUTAL MARCH from Selma. The “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” A massive march on Washington, climaxed by the “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

These are just some of the images that came to mind as we honored the life of Martin Luther King Jr. last weekend, and mourned his tragic death. Over four decades later, we continue to be inspired by his courage and his leadership in the long series of marches that led to a dramatic expansion of civil rights in America for so many who had been so long oppressed.

While time has healed some of the pain and blurred some of the harsh realities of that difficult period, it is good for us to remember that the gains for which he and others fought did not come easily in the face of often deadly opposition from the Ku Klux Klan and lynching mobs.

Nor can we overlook the soft resistance that King faced from a silent and even critical church, some of whose leaders accused him of being “extreme.” They urged him to stop the marches, calling them unwise, untimely, and too confrontational — charges that prompted him to write the letter from a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963.

In that response, King cited the examples of Biblical heroes like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and American heroes like the Boston Tea Party patriots who engaged in “civil disobedience” against unjust laws. He also referred to other “extreme” examples like Jesus, the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and Abraham Lincoln who spoke out against injustice and oppression.

Finally, he expressed disappointment in the outright opposition of some churches and their leaders who “have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.” King said he “wept over the laxity of the church” in this struggle.

At the same time, however, he expressed appreciation for other church leaders who were able to break loose “from the paralyzing chains of conformity” and who were able to stand up “for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

Beyond the issue of slavery, King’s legacy is also a reminder of a second battle that is similar in many ways to the one that he fought. That is the battle for life which, like liberty, is based on a principle that is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, for “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is a battle to which King’s niece, Alveda King, lends her support and her voice today.

The parallels between the two battles are striking. They both spring from misguided Supreme Court decisions, Dred Scott in 1857 and Roe v. Wade in 1973, that refused to acknowledge the “personhood” of black people in the first instance and unborn babies in the second.

In addition, they both face(d) the same tired arguments that “You can’t legislate morality and should not impose your morality on others,” and “If you don’t want one (a slave or an abortion), don’t have one.” And in like manner, they face(d) similar attempts to silence their voices and to censor reports of the bloody atrocities taking place in both instances as being in “poor taste.”

The final parallel lies in the fact that both slavery and abortion were determined to be “legal” by the Supreme Court. Moreover, in the case of abortion, the Court mandated that all states make it legal as well, despite the fact that many of them had passed laws making it illegal. This was seen to be “an exercise in raw judicial power”, as dissenting Justice Byron White described it.

That brings us to the second series of marches, following in the footsteps of those led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Every year, for the past 37 years, tens of thousands of Americans gather on the Capitol Mall in Washington to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, calling on the President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court to overturn this tragic decision that has led to an estimated 50 million abortions since 1973.

These marchers believe that we too must say today, as King said in his “I Have a Dream” speech, that “We have come here to dramatize a shameful condition, (and like the prophet Amos), we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

by Deb Medlin and Dean Welty

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Productive Day

It was time well spent at the Capitol in Richmond yesterday....I think. Senator Steve Martin has agreed to move for the bill to be referred to the Courts of Justice Committee IF I will be there in person at 8:30 next Thursday morning (just before the meeting) to remind him.

In addition to meeting with Senator Martin, Dean Welty and I were able to make appearances at the offices of 17 other legislators who will be hearing the bill. Yes-SEVENTEEN! That was a lot of interpersonal communication for this introvert!

But it was good that we did it, because our conversations with some of the legislators and the legislative aides of others revealed that many of them had misconceptions about the bill. By clearing up misconceptions and answering their questions in advance of the committee hearing, we are paving the way for smoother passage.

That said, please stay tuned! I will definitely be calling upon you to send e-mails or make phone calls to some of them who may need a little encouragement in the near future!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Day in Richmond--It's Worth The Effort

I am planning to travel to Richmond tomorrow to make what some consider a futile attempt to persuade a few more legislators to either support the bill or refer it to another committee.

Here's some important background:

The Senate Education and Health Committee is commonly referred to as "The Committee of Death." Why? Because this Committee systematically defeats every single piece of pro-life legislation before it can even get to the floor for a vote. It is comprised in such a way that it is almost a foregone conclusion that any pro-life bill assigned to it is dead on arrival. And under the Senate rules, any bill that relates to abortion is assigned to this Committee.

But the thing is, our bill really doesn't belong in the Senate Education & Health Committee to begin with, because it is not an "abortion" bill. The word "abortion" is not even in the bill. Instead, this bill is, in legal terminology, a "rule of construction." It informs the interpretation of other Virginia laws. For instance, it requires the word "person" in Virginia's wrongful death statute (and elsewhere) to include unborn children. This way (in contexts other than abortion), if the negligence of a third party (a drunk driver, for instance) causes an unborn child to die, the parent can sue that person for "wrongful death" just as if a newborn had been killed.

So the bill really has nothing to do with "education" or with "health." It belongs in the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice or for General Laws because it involves the interpretation of other laws and the creation of a type of lawsuit. This is why, on the House of Delegates side, the bill is being heard in the Courts of Justice Committee.

My trip to Richmond tomorrow is for the purpose of urging key members of the Senate Ed & Health Committee to move to refer the bill to another committee, where it would likely receive a more favorable hearing.

Please pray that (1) I am able to meet with these key players tomorrow, and that (2) their hearts would be moved to do what is right.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Remarks at Virginia Rally for Life

Some friends have asked if I could share my remarks from last week's rally at the Capitol in Richmond. This is what I said:

In 1973, the Supreme Court declined to resolve the "difficult" issue of when life begins. Well we need to help them out, Virginia! We know when life begins! Life begins at conception, and Delegate Bob Marshall's House Bill 1440 will spell that out in black and white in Virginia's Code.

We don't want judges deciding for us who is a person and who isn't--who has rights and who doesn't. We simply want laws that recognize the unique dignity of every human life.

The focus of House Bill 1440 isn't on tearing down an ill-conceived "right" created by judges. Instead, it builds up a right given by the Creator--the inalienable right to life.

What legislator can't vote for that?

In Roe v. Wade, the Court said that unborn children had no right to life under the federal Constitution. Well they missed the point! The Constitution doesn't give anyone the right to life--GOD DOES!

It is an inalienable right, and no legitimate government power can sanction its destruction in the womb. If the Supreme Court won't recognize this, the states must.

This is what House Bill 1440 does. And by recognizing the inalienable right to life of the unborn, states can create a counterweight to the mother's rights.

My hope is that we will see justice.

Slavery could not stand in the face of the truth that slaves were persons rather than property.
Friends, legalized abortion will not stand if we insist on laws that reflect the truth and on government that respects its boundaries.

It is time for Virginia law to recognize the inalienable rights of the unborn.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Onward and Upward!

The General Assembly is back in session again. This year we have both a House version (HB1440) and a Senate version (SB1207) of the bill that would establish the humanity of unborn children under Virginia law and create a civil cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn child. In other words, if a drunk driver hits a vehicle carrying a pregnant woman and causes the death of her unborn child, the parents could sue the driver for "wrongful death." Most states already recognize this cause of action.

I am encouraged about the progress we have made since last session. Simply by making slight adjustments to the wording of the bill and educating key people about its effects, we have gained the support of:
  • The Rutherford Institute;
  • Americans United for Life;
  • Focus on the Family;
  • The Family Foundation of Virginia;
  • The Virginia Catholic Conference;
  • Concerned Women for America;
  • Virginia Society for Human Life; and
  • Virginia Christian Alliance.

In addition, we have amassed an incredible degree of support among the legislators who will actually debate and vote for the bill. These include:

  • Speaker of the House Bill Howell;
  • Del. Bob Marshall;
  • Sen. Mark Obenshain;
  • Sen. Jill Vogel;
  • Del. Dave Albo;
  • Del. Clay Athey;
  • Del. Ben Cline;
  • Del. Jackson Miller;
  • Del. Dickie Bell; and
  • Del. Todd Gilbert.

Chances for passage in the House of Delegates look good. Of course, the Senate is another story.