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


Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Heavy Heart

This day has been one wild ride. When we arrived at the Committee room around 7:30 this morning, lines were already forming for those who wanted to watch the 8:30 meeting. Many were there for Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day.

Our hopes were not particularly high that HB1 would survive this Committee. In fact, we were convinced that it would be quite the miracle for that to happen.

The debate was long and heated. Witnesses for our side included myself, David Johnson from the Attorney General's office, one pastor, a couple of individuals and representatives of several pro-life organizations. Witnesses for the other side included the usual suspects (Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU), a few abortionists, and (new this year) infertility patients. The latter (with whom we all sympathize, of course), claimed that IVF treatments would be "outlawed" by HB1, a claim that is far-fetched and completely untrue. In fact, our bill specifically states that it does not affect lawful assisted conception. They argued that fertility treatment was endangered because it could be considered "unlawful" assisted conception. (?)

But when Committee Chairmen Steve Martin allowed me to answer some questioning from Committee members, I was able to articulate the legal answers, and even to distribute a handout containing 3 pages of reasons why the various allegations were untrue.

Of course, having David Johnson from Cuccinelli's office there to testify was huge, and I suspect his presence carried considerable weight with the Committee.

The spiritual battle in that room was almost palpable. A number of times, opponents of the bill (who, again, packed the sizeable room) were threatened with removal for their inappropriate comments and interruptions. At one point, someone was removed.

But when the vote was taken, it was 8-7 to report the bill to the full Senate (a win!). That was incredible!

We made our way out to the lobby, where opponents were chanting and waving their arms. At one point, one of them appeared to take a swing at Delegate Marshall. I was approached by two different women, separately. One of them said, "I hope your organization has deep pockets, because you're going to need them." The other said, "I hope you're really proud of yourself. If you have a daughter, I hope she won't be able to get the services she needs someday." I couldn't resist responding to that one. I replied, "I do have a daughter, and she will be very, very proud of what I have done someday." After a good several minutes, police gave the order to "clear the lobby."

Opponents proceeded outside, where they lined the street with their signs, chanting, "My body--my choice!" How well they are mobilized! How passionate and invested they are to their cause! And the laws are already on THEIR side!

Just a few hours later, as I hurriedly ushered the kids to a violin lesson, I learned that in a rare procedural move, the Senate leadership had expedited the bill to the Senate floor (where it was not expected until Monday). Dick Saslaw, a Democrat from the Committee, moved to send the bill BACK to the same Committee that had just passed it, for reconsideration in 2013. His motion was seconded by the Republican Majority Leader, Tommy Norment. Five other Republicans voted in favor of this motion (including Senator Blevins, who had voted only hours before to report the bill!), allowing it to carry.

Senator Mark Obenshain spoke against the motion. (Thank you to him!)

Friends, I don't know what to make of this. I am sad, angry, and disappointed. One thing is sure--Governor's McDonnell's refusal to support HB1 was a huge contributing factor to today's defeat. And as for The Family Foundation, I don't even know what to say.

But God is still on His throne. He is sovereign over men and nations. I grieve over the various displays of cowardice by some, for these evoke a false view of God as impotent or absent. I rejoice over the victory He gave us in that Committee room today--however short-lived.

I hope in the conviction that He is never out-maneuvered, never out-played. I pray for man to be put in his place and for Yahweh to be glorified.

And now, I will pick up and move on, endeavoring to simply be faithful when He calls me into battle. Not because I expect a certain outcome, but because walking with Him is the most fundamental thing of all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lucy and the Lion

Do you remember this scene from Disney's production of C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian: a large and frightful army is after little Lucy, who stands at one end of a wooden bridge with only a small knife to defend herself. But by her side is the Lion. Aslan. As the gleeful army starts across the bridge, he lets out a deafening roar. The water itself rises up, and the army is demolished.

Friends, we are Lucy in this battle for a law that simply recognizes Truth. We are created by God, in His image, and each human life--from conception--is precious. While life at conception is a fact that is demonstrably and scientifically true, it is also the antidote to the poisonous lies peddled by the abortion industry. It plainly exposes the depravity of laws permitting abortion. They see that very clearly, and that is why they have mobilized against us with everything they've got.

Their side is powerful, numerous, passionate, and well-funded. The media is on their side. Sadly, much of "our side" is complacent, silent, distracted, or divided by competing loyalties to parties or politicians. But in my work on this, I have also seen many faithful followers of Christ who are willing to go into battle, even at great personal cost, for their Master's causes. For Truth.

And let us never forget--indeed, let us be emboldened and motivated by--the Lion of Judah whose roar is our lifeblood. He is at our side, and He is worthy of the battle, whatever the outcome.

HB1 is scheduled to be debated in the Senate Education and Health Committee tomorrow (which also happens to be Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day). Please contact these Senators and ask for their support. You don't have to be fancy--a simple sentence will do. If you only have time to contact one or two, please contact Sen. Martin and Sen. Blevins.

Sen. Harry Blevins (804) 698-7514
Sen. Charles Carrico (804) 698-7540
Sen. Tom Garrett (804) 698-7522
Sen. Steven Martin (804) 698-7511
Sen. Jeffrey McWaters (804) 698-7508
Sen. Stephen Newman (804) 698-7523
Sen. Ralph Smith (804) 698-7519
Sen. Dick Black (804) 698-7513

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Speaking Truth to Power

So far, it appears that Governor McDonnell's political ambitions will prevent him from using his considerable influence to ensure that HB1 makes it through the Senate. One of the Governor's spokespersons recently told a reporter that the Governor has "significant" constitutional concerns about the bill. This is completely ludicrous, inasmuch as I happen to know that the Governor's office is very much aware that the identical language has been in place in Missouri since 1986 and has survived U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny in a landmark decision.

How will the Governor be held accountable for this deception and betrayal?

Even more concerning to me is the refusal of The Family Foundation of Virginia (no, that is not a typo) to take any leadership whatsoever in advocating for the bill. In fact, (are you sitting down?) for reasons that have not yet been made clear, The Family Foundation was instrumental in having an alternative bill introduced (see my earlier post on this). That bill, in the form supported by The Family Foundation, would have established a wrongful death cause of action for a "fetus," thus setting a dangerous precedent in Virginia's Code of "life-at-12-weeks," rather than "life-at-conception."

Because of the considerable efforts exerted by a number of grassroots pro-life organizations, several Senators were alerted to this problem with The Family Foundation's "alternative," and these Senators amended the language to ensure that the cause of action would apply throughout pregnancy. In that amended form, SB674 passed the Senate and is now in the House.

The Family Foundation's compromise bill says nothing about life at conception, nothing about the humanity or fundamental rights of an unborn child. And, unlike HB1, which would inform the interpretation of the entire Virginia Code, the language The Family Foundation has championed does NOTHING other than to amend one particular statute dealing with tort law.

And just as I predicted and advised The Family Foundation, this compromise bill itself has become a justification for letting HB1 die. This was the very argument made by the ACLU lobbyist at the hearing for HB1 in the House. Thankfully, we had enough support there to get the bill through anyway. But what will happen in the more problematic Senate?

What is behind this glaring sell-out by those who claim to be the voice of the pro-life movement in Virginia?

And where was The Family Foundation when the Rally for Life in Richmond was going on last week, mere steps from The Family Foundatin's posh new offices? While representatives of The Rutherford Institute, Liberty Council, Alliance Defense Fund, 40 Days for Life, Concerned Women of America, U.S. Senate Candidates Bob Marshall, Bishop Jackson and George Allen were all there to advocate for HB1, along with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli himself, The Family Foundation declined multiple invitations to participate or even be present.

How can one make sense of this?

I have said my piece to Governor McDonnell, and now I must speak to The Family Foundation of Virginia: WHERE ARE YOU? You have told those you purport to represent that you support HB1, while the truth is that you are working behind closed doors to defeat it. I pray that you will choose to fear God rather than men, and that your allegiance would be to Him rather than to any particular politician or party. Integrity matters to us, and it matters even more to Him.

To seek to claim "victory" over an impotent compromise bill at the expense of solid, far-reaching legislation like HB1 is like bulldozing the Sistene Chapel, erecting an outhouse in its place, and rejoicing about it. If you don't see that there is more at stake here than a notch in The Family Foundation's belt, then folks at home might as well send their donations to the Republican Party.

It's time to show some integrity. It's time to show the courage that befits one who serves the Lord of Hosts.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yesterday I had the privilege to speak at Rally for Life 2012 at the Capitol Bell Tower in Richmond. This is what I said:

There are many mistruths surrounding House Bill 1, but here is the truth. This bill recognizes that life begins at conception and expresses an intention to protect that life to the fullest extent possible. While it does not affect abortion directly or challenge Roe v. Wade, it lays a strong foundation of legal sustainability for future pro-life efforts. House Bill 1 recognizes the very moment of conception—and not some arbitrary later date—as the time when basic rights accrue to a distinct human being.

As usual, opponents of this type of legislation engage in fear-mongering. They allege that House Bill 1 is just like personhood measures that have failed in other states. However, this is not Personhood Mississippi, and this is not Personhood Colorado. This is Science 101 and Basic Human Rights Virginia—an unborn child is a human being and nothing less! Since time immemorial, life has begun at conception!

Some politicians—even those who call themselves pro-life—have dismissed a life-at-conception bill as too radical, too extreme. They say we’re overreaching to try to codify this most basic human rights principle. Well, I say to them, “We are the people, and we’re here to speak truth to power. And we’re here because we’re ready to take back our government from lobbyists and politicians who think that way.” There is a time and a place for bargaining and compromise, but it is NOT over the issue of who is a human being and who isn’t. That is a non-negotiable because life does begin at conception.

At The Rutherford Institute, we have a motto. We say, “Speak Truth to Power.” So Governor McDonnell, please hear this: The pro-life movement is not some pack of dogs who will be thrown off the scent by specious concerns of constitutionality—concerns that the U.S. Supreme Court has already dismissed. Neither will we be content to be thrown a bone in the form of an alternative law that does not accomplish our long-term objectives. We are the voice of the unborn, and we will not rest until their humanity is fully recognized.

We need officials and organizations who will stand for the sanctity of human life. But friends, if we want these politicians to stand, WE must stand and lift our voices. We must insist that the simple recognition of the humanity of the unborn is never permitted to be played as a political bargaining chip. Some principles are too fundamental to be bargained. Life begins at conception.

Let me make one thing clear: House Bill 1 will not end abortion in Virginia, just as the Declaration of Independence, with its noble recognition of inalienable rights, did not end slavery. But just as those lofty words were the North Star that guided men to justice and liberty, so may the words of simple legislation steer our Commonwealth to justice for the unborn. And some day, I pray that certain unalienable rights will be recognized for all members of the human family. Life begins at conception.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Overdue Update

My failure to update the blog until now is primarily indicative of one thing: so much has been happening with House Bill 1 that I haven't had time to write the updates!

And today's update will be brief, but it is essential. Last Friday, after an intense debate, HB1 sailed through the House Courts of Justice Committee by a vote of 14-4! The 14 favorable votes included that of one Democrat, Joe Johnson.

Yesterday, the bill was debated on the floor of the House, where it was "engrossed for its third reading." That means the final floor vote will be taken today. Barring any surprises (and believe me, there have been plenty this session!), the bill will pass the House today and cross over for consideration in the Senate.

Please be praying! I hope to find time to catch you up on some of the recent developments over the next week. God has definitely been at work here (as have His enemies), and I look forward to telling you about that so that you can join me in praising Him and being in awe of Him. And I will be doing that regardless of the ultimate outcome for HB1.