Posts Tagged ‘Governor McDonnell’

Shortly before 10 last night, Virginia joined the growing number of states that have adopted restrictions against abortion coverage within its state health exchange (to be created pursuant to the new federal health-care law).  Via a 61-36 vote in the House and a 20-20 vote in the Senate (with the tie broken favorably by Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling), the Commonwealth joined Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Idaho in making use of a provision in the federal law that provides, “[A] state may elect to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an Exchange in such State if such State enacts a law to provide for such a prohibition.”

By banning coverage (within Virginia’s exchange) of abortions that have long been ineligible for federal funding in major health programs such as Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (that is, all abortions except for cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother), Governor McDonnell’s successfully adopted amendment now ensures that, as discussions on establishing a state exchange proceed, health plans seeking to be part of the exchange will be prohibited from covering abortion on demand.

Prohibiting abortion coverage within health exchanges (through which federal taxpayer money will be routed) has been a top priority of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, beginning during the debate on federal health care restructuring over a year ago and continuing after its passage in March of 2010.  The Virginia Catholic Conference is encouraged by the Commonwealth’s important contribution yesterday to the ongoing national effort to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that people will not be forced to pay for other people’s abortions. With the addition of Virginia, at least 10 states now restrict abortion coverage in health insurance policies generally and/or in policies traded on exchanges.

Also last night, the General Assembly added funding to the state budget for abstinence programs.  Governor McDonnell’s proposal to provide this money was the Conference’s other top priority (again in alliance with other groups) during yesterday’s one-day session and was approved by the House, 69-29, and by the Senate, 20-20 (with Bolling again casting the deciding vote to break the tie favorably).

The two 20-20 votes provide another example of how essential constituent input is.  Large numbers of people throughout Virginia contacted their legislators in support of these pro-life, pro-family amendments and made a very considerable difference in the outcomes.

To join the Conference’s email alert network, please visit www.vacatholic.org


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By: Jeff Caruso, Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference

Friday, Jeff Caruso described to us the behind the scenes advocacy work of the Virginia Catholic Conference that occurred in the attempts to pass a Virginia state budget amendment that would cut the majority of state funding for abortion. For Part I in this series, click here.

On the 4th of July, Jeff shares with us the outcome of advocacy in the political process:

The Evening of April 21 – Victory in the Senate

Catholic advocacy impacted the Va Senate decision

Finally, around 9:00 p.m., the Senate took up the matter. Senator Mark Obenshain (R – Harrisonburg) explained the amendment and effectively countered the arguments of the five senators who spoke against the bill. 

 As pro-life advocates watched from the Senate gallery, the contentious floor debate concluded, and senators were asked to record their votes. As the green and red dots were registered next to each senator’s name on the electronic voting board, the green thankfully outnumbered the red … by one. The Senate’s 20-19 vote handed the pro-life cause in Virginia a historic victory!

Looking Ahead at the Impact of this Policy
With the governor’s amendment now part of the budget, many unborn lives can be saved, and state taxpayers who oppose financing life-ending practices have a greater measure of conscience protection. 

Data gathered from the Conference’s network showed an unprecedented level of responses to alerts on this proposal, and Conference staff repeatedly heard that legislators were receiving e-mails from their pro-life constituents. People who responded to the alert, and parishes that promoted it, made the critical difference. 

How can you help?
Those kinds of efforts will surely be needed again as the issue resurfaces in future years, so more network members are needed. Catholics across Virginia are urged to visit the Conference’s website and use the online sign-up feature to enroll.  Together, we can thank God for the hard-fought outcome in 2010, but we must also defend it vigorously and build for even greater gains.

Celebrating Independence Day is an opportunity to remember the perseverance of our nation’s founders. Together, they secured the freedom that we have today to be faithful citizens – freedom which enables us to participate in political decisions like the one I have described. May we exercise this freedom often to promote the common good of our Commonwealth. Happy Fourth of July!

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By Jeff Caruso, Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference     

On July 1, a new Virginia budget policy took effect that dramatically curtails state funding of abortion. Although this landmark provision is but a few lines buried within hundreds of pages of state spending policies, it is the product of many voices and countless hours of “behind the scenes” advocacy over many years.     

A Timeline:     

Since 2005 – The Call for Change
Since its inception in 2005, the Virginia Catholic Conference has pushed for these restrictions, armed with figures showing that Virginia residents have been paying for well over 100 abortions per year with their state tax dollars. Promotion of laws that uphold the sanctity of life are an important part of the pro-life work of Catholic Virginians, which also includes outreach to women in crisis pregnancies and post-abortion healing ministries. Members of the Conference’s e-mail advocacy network consistently weighed in on the budget issue, sending hundreds of e-mails to their delegates and state senators expressing their opposition to paying for abortions.       

The VCC is the Public Policy Arm of the Virginia Dioceses


However, in each Virginia General Assembly session, an all-too-familiar sequence of events unfolded: The legislature’s House of Delegates would approve the abortion-funding restrictions, only to see the language rejected by a few Senate leaders during final budget negotiations between the House and Senate (without a recorded vote).     

After enduring the same tired outcome as the legislature adjourned this year on March 14, it seemed to most observers that pro-life advocates would remain stuck in the mud yet again. As spring began, though, a much different outcome was about to blossom.     

April  2010 – Amendment Garners Gubernatorial Backing
Recognizing the governor’s ability to propose line-item amendments to the budget (which the General Assembly would vote on upon returning to Richmond in April for a one-day session), the Conference and its network made their case to newly inaugurated Governor Bob McDonnell. The governor agreed that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortions, and decided it was time for a long-overdue up-or-down vote on the matter.      

On April 13, McDonnell proposed an amendment to ban state funding of all abortions except as required by federal law or state statute. The effect of the amendment, if approved, would be to eliminate the vast majority of Virginia’s publicly subsidized abortions (that is, those done under a general health rationale which has never received General Assembly approval).       

Advocacy helps protect the lives of the unborn!


Mid-April 2010 – Persuading the Senate
With the General Assembly set to reconvene on April 21, the Conference, its allies, and its grassroots network sprinted toward the finish line with a clear goal — to capture a majority of votes in the Senate, where both supporters and opponents of the amendment expected a razor-thin margin.     

In the days that followed, the Conference sent multiple alerts to its network, communicated with key senators, coordinated with allied pro-life organizations, provided urgent bulletin and pulpit announcements to parishes, and followed up with parish leaders in key districts.     

Two days before the vote, it appeared that a 20-20 tie was attainable in the Senate.      

April 19, 2010 – An Unexpected Twist
Ordinarily, that would be good news — the lieutenant governor breaks ties in the Senate, and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling opposes state abortion funding. Due to a completely bizarre turn of events, however, a tie would not be good enough. Bolling was stranded in Italy (attending an economic development conference) when flights were cancelled across Europe because of volcanic activity in Iceland.      

As news reports confirmed that he would not be able to fly back to Virginia in time for the vote, the Conference and its pro-life partners intensified their efforts.     

As citizens, we are able to be part of the political process.


 April 21, 2010 – Canvassing for Votes
When the day of the vote arrived, supporters and opponents of the governor’s proposed restrictions on abortion funding flocked to the Capitol and began visiting Senate offices one-by-one in search of crucial commitments.      

The day was long and full of ups and downs. The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on the amendment in the morning (including expressions of concern by a University of Virginia hospital representative that were rebutted during the Senate floor debate).    

 In the afternoon, the House approved the amendment by an overwhelming 64-30 margin, as expected. However, the Conference also learned shortly afterward that one of the Senate’s pro-life legislators had to catch a flight before the Senate vote would occur.  Nevertheless, pro-life advocates continually followed up with senators throughout the day in an effort to secure precious votes.      

UPDATE: Read the end of the cliffhanger in Part II.

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By: Jeff Caruso, Virginia Catholic Conference Director

Until Wednesday’s landmark vote, state funded abortions occurred at the alarming rate of one every three days.

The VCC is the public policy arm of the two VA dioceses.

In my previous post, I relayed that Governor McDonnell proposed a budget amendment that would drastically reduce those abortions. As you may have already heard, on Wednesday evening the state Senate cast a 20-19 vote in favor of a budget amendment to dramatically limit state abortion funding.  Earlier in the afternoon, the House also agreed to the amendment by a 64-30 vote.  Proposed by Governor McDonnell, the amendment ensures that no abortions will be paid for by state taxpayers except as required by federal law or state statute.  With the approval by both chambers, the Governor’s proposal is now part of the budget that will govern state spending for the next two fiscal years.

This life-saving budget amendment occurred in part because of the unprecedented number of people like you who advocated for this change. My staff and I heard that legislators were receiving plenty of e-mails from their pro-life constituents. If you participated by contacting your legislators – thank you!

If you have not already, I encourage you to sign up for the Virginia Catholic Conference advocacy network at www.vacatholic.org and to spread the news to your friends, family and co-workers. E-mailing your legislators about important issues only takes a moment and (as we saw on Wednesday) your contribution can save lives.

Together, we can thank God for this outcome and build for more like it in the future.

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By Jeff Caruso, Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference

As you may remember from my previous post, the Virginia General Assembly will be voting on amendments to the state budget on April 21. For many years, Virginia has funded abortions for reasons that go well beyond what federal laws and state statutes require.  Since the last time I posted, Governor McDonnell has proposed a budget amendment to ban state funding of these abortions.

It is crucial for the citizens of Virginia to contact their state legislators before Wednesday, April 21, in support of Governor McDonnell’s proposal. This is a concrete action that we can take to defend and protect life in our government!  Let your representatives know that you want them to ratify the Governor’s amendment to save countless lives and eliminate state spending on the vast majority of abortions currently funded with taxpayer dollars.

At www.vacatholic.org you can follow easy steps (at the top of the page) to send an e-mail to your legislators. I urge you to take a moment to let your voice be heard on this very important issue. Share this news with others who are interested in saving countless lives – according to state statistics, over 100 a year!

 Please join me in action and prayer as we seek to protect the dignity of life.  Along with this important initiative, you are invited to participate in other pro-life initiatives here in the Diocese of Arlington such as Respect Life Masses and Rosary, the Gabriel Project and Project Rachel. As a Church and as citizens of the state of Virginia, each one of us can do our part to defend the lives of the unborn.

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