Republicans ‘Celebrate’ Clinic-Closing Amendment

The short version of this mess:
Senate Bill 924, sponsored by Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, R-Hanover, originally dealt with the need for emergency plans for security and infectious-disease issues at hospitals and nursing facilities.
But it applied to a section of the Virginia code where any legislation governing the regulation of abortion clinics would have to be entered. This protected the clinic amendments proposed on the House floor by Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell, from being stripped from the bill for not being relevant.
Democratic Senator Howell said Senate Bill 924 was clearly “a plant” designed to make it through the Senate so it could go to the House and be amended by the Republican majority.

The bill should have been killed in the Senate by the Democrats!

Bill Aimed at Closing Clinics Passes

Democratic Senate leader Dick Saslaw said “They slipped one through” in explaining how the Republicans passed Senate Bill 924, which will regulate clinics that provide first-trimester abortions as if they were hospitals. The Republican goal – to close clinics. Saslaw acknowledged the Democratic leadership failed to stop the Republican legislative maneuver of adding a TRAP amendment to an unrelated bill. They have been accustomed to doing things the same way for so long – stopping anti-choice bills in the Senate Education and Health Committee – that they, as Saslaw said, didn’t catch this.

Democrats Chuck Colgan and Phil Puckett voted with the Republicans. Lt Gov Bill Bolling broke the 20-20 tie. Now Gov McDonnell signs the bill and Virginia becomes the first state in the nation to require this regulation. Call it “women-are-too-stupid-to-know-what’s-safe-and-what they need-so-men-have-to-do-it-for-them.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a good narrative about how this unfolded.

In the view of the writer of this post, the Democrats simply were out-smarted. And, in my view, didn’t take it seriously enough. AG Cuccinelli gave fair warning that he was deadly serious about TRAP – Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers – when he issued an opinion on this in the summer.

Ben Tribbett on notlarrysabato has some great quotes, worth repeating:
“These amendments are draconian and patriarchal…” Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton. Love that she says patriarchal.

“There has been no state to adopt this type of legislation that would force women to have a first trimester abortion in a hospital. This is unconstitutional under Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey because it puts an undue burden on a woman who is having a first trimester abortion. They should not have to have this simple procedure in a hospital,” said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke.

On a broader note, the Republicans have pounded away at this issue for 20 some years. Their strategy, in VA and nationally, is chipping away. They are not relying on the Supreme Court to overturn what is left of Roe v Wade. They are chipping away at access to services and at what little funding there is; their message machine is enormous. Their allies include the very powerful US Conference of Catholic Bishops. If this matter is litigated and goes to the Supreme Court, we could lose because we will not have a strong enough case that this type of regulation poses a burden on women. Anthony Kennedy will argue as he did in the late-term abortion decision – regulation is good for women (!), women will appreciate it (because we can’t take care of ourselves, presumably).

Other factors of concern to this writer:
this is a “women’s issue” and unfortunately does not carry the weight of being a civil rights issue that the LGBT cause now carries.
Democrats have been willing to compromise away aspects of abortion rights – note Obama’s executive order to get Catholic permission to go ahead with health care reform.

I am also angry that Cucinnelli misrepresented – or heck, lied about – Virginia NOW’s position two decades ago on this issue. He actually mentioned NOW in his statement crowing about the passage of the amendment. NOW does not favor the kind of regulations that the Republicans want, which will shut down clinics.

Finally, this shows why advocacy groups are key to any fight. We can’t let up the pressure and scrutiny, even of our Democratic friends.

Republicans’ Sneak Attack on Clinics! CALL YOUR SENATOR

Two days to go! The Virginia Senate will vote 2/24 or 2/25 on Senate Bill 924 – which includes an amendment that will impose medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers (this is the TRAP legislation – Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers) that we have fought year after year. Call your Senator NOW, whether he or she is pro-choice or anti-choice, Democratic or Republican. Ask your neighbors and friends to call. We have to flood the switchboard to stop this sneak attack.

Find your senator:

This amendment is a stealth attempt to shut down clinics by the same Republicans who have lost year after year and who lost again this year in the Senate. It’s an 11th-hour sneak attack and we have to stop it!

Targeted regulations of abortion providers (or TRAP laws) are thinly-veiled attempts to deny women access to LEGAL and SAFE abortion procedures. Opponents of abortion rights claim that these procedures are unsafe and unregulated. That’s not true! First-trimester abortion is one of the safest and most common of all in-office surgical procedures, with complication rates in less than one-half of one percent of all procedures. Their true purpose is to force clinics to close, leaving the women of Virginia with little or no access to abortion services unless they travel out-of-state.

What’s Happening in Richmond

Information accurate as of February 17, 2011

With just a week to go in the 2011 General Assembly legislative, there is bad news, good news, and uncertainty.

First, the bad. On Monday February 14, three men on a subcommittee in the House of Delegates (Republican Bill Janis, Republican Jackson Miller and independent Lacey Putney) blithely killed the ERA resolution that had been carefully marshaled through the first half of the session by Virginia NOW President Diana Egozcue. The resolution for Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment actually passed the Democratic-controlled Senate – with all Democrats voting for it along with two fair-minded Republicans, Walter Stosch (who represents part of Goochland, Henrico and Richmond City) and Harry Blevins (who represents part of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach).

Diana did a great job in organizing support: she set up a website – – with the kind of useful information advocates need, enlisted as patrons Delegate Mark Sickles and VA NOW member Senator Patsy Ticer to sponsor the resolution, and spoke to virtually all 140 members! The fourth member of that subcommittee who was present that morning- Delegate Lionell Spruill, a Democrat – voted for the resolution and promised to stick with us next session, when we try again. (Two members were absent – Republican Rob Bell, who didn’t even show up, and Republican Mark Cole, who left early.) Immediately after the vote, we began strategizing on how to make more progress next session – because as a nation, we will all benefit when women have constitutionally guaranteed equal rights.

Perhaps if our elections were more competitive, we would have had more votes for the ERA (and fewer egregious attacks on reproductive rights). Which brings us to redistricting. Basically, because the once-every-ten-years process of redistricting is controlled by the political parties, politicians pick their voters rather than the other way around. Most politicians don’t want to upset the apple cart and try to draw lines to create safe districts, where there is little or no competition (except in the primaries) and incumbents readily win. The deal this year apparently is that the Democratic Senate will draw its districts and the Republican House will draw its districts, although Gov. McDonnell – to fulfill a campaign promise – has appointed a bipartisan commission to recommend plans that meet reapportionment goals. There’s still a chance that redistricting will be fairer this year than previously, and the League of Women Voters of Virginia continues to educate and lobby for this.

The annual Republican attempt to close reproductive health clinics that perform abortions by singling them out for unnecessary regulations passed the House of Delegates. Proponents of this legislation – called Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers (TRAP) – argue that they are merely concerned with women’s health and safety but they ignore existing safety data and rules, regulations, and state investigatory powers that already apply. Other attempts to restrict reproductive rights include a bill stating that the rights and protections of personhood begin at conception and an abortion ban bill to prohibit even private health insurance plans from offering abortion services when the new insurance exchange goes into effect in 2014 (as part of health care reform). The abortion ban bill in the House of Delegates (Ben Cline was the patron) was so poorly worded that it would also prohibit coverage of certain medical procedures related to miscarriages. On Thursday, February 17, the Senate Education and Health Committee let all three bills die. All ten Democrats voted to let the bills “pass by indefinitely” and all five Republicans voted to pass them. Legislative VP Marj Signer spoke against the bills. Another bill, to revoke the requirement for the HPV vaccine for girls entering 6th grade, also failed; NOW does not have a policy position on this vaccine.

There is good news on medically accurate sex education. Yes, inaccurate information is being offered in some schools.) The Family Life Education bill (SB 967), patroned by Senator Ralph Northam, passed the Senate by 24-16 – all Democrats and four Republicans (Tommy Norment, Fred Quayle, Frank Wagner and John Watkins). This bill – which requires that any family life education curriculum taught in our public schools be medically accurate – is now in the House, where the Pro-Choice Coalition, of which we are a member, will lobby for it.

Progress is likely on the safety of women and girls. In the wake of the murder of UVA star athlete Yeardley Love, numerous protective order bills were introduced.All of the House bills were “rolled into” HB 2063 (patron Delegate Rob Bell) and all the Senate bills into SB 1222 (patron Senator George Barker). Both bills include recommendations endorsed by the Crime Commission that expand access to protective orders for victims of sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence (including victims of dating violence). Other positive bills have been introduced by VA NOW member Delegate Charniele Herring, Senator Emmett Hanger, Delegate David Albo, and Senator Fred Quayle. The Virginia Domestic and Sexual Violence Action Alliance has done a stellar job in working with legislators.

Legislation backed by both Republicans and Democrats to curb trafficking in humans for commercial sex and labor continues to move forward. Many people are not aware that Northern Virginia is a hotbed of sex trafficking. Trafficking U.S. citizens and foreign nationals – largely women – for sex takes place in commercial-front massage parlors, closed-network residential brothels, truck stops, and on the streets, controlled by pimps. Increasingly, victims are advertised on internet sites like Craigslist and then put in hotels or motels where customers make use of them. Persons who are trafficked for labor work in agriculture, nail salons, domestic servitude and as traveling sales crews selling candy or magazine subscriptions. These victims face a horrific life in which they are threatened, beaten, raped, starved, locked up, or psychologically manipulated – all for the financial profit of traffickers. This is modern day slavery.
Three bills are active:
HB 2190, patroned by Delegate Adam Ebbin and which has passed the House and Senate, would require the Department of Social Services to develop a plan for the delivery of services to victims of human trafficking – services that are necessary for victims to recover, such as housing, medical care, education, job training, and legal aid.
SB 1453, patroned by Senator Stephen Newman, would require the Department of Criminal Justice Services (with the Office of the Attorney General) to advise law enforcement agencies and attorneys for the Commonwealth regarding human trafficking offenses using the existing criminal statutes. This passed the House and is in Senate Courts of Justice.
HJ 561, patroned by Delegate Kaye Kory, would designate January 11 as Global Human Trafficking Awareness Day and is currently in a Senate Rules subcommittee.

We have also been actively following bills on gun safety, restoration of voting rights for former felons, and more.

Thank you for all you do every day to advance equality.
Marj Signer, Legislative V-P
Email me at

Learn more about the ERA at

Forward email

Critical ERA Vote Monday – Act NOW!!!

Our calls and emails today can make a lifetime of difference for all women!! We are at a critical time for the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia. It is urgent for all who support equal rights for women under the Constitution to act NOW. Please call or email the delegates listed below and ask them to vote FOR HJ 640, the resolution to ratify the ERA.

On Monday, February 14, these delegates will vote on the ERA resolution as early as 7 am. They are members of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Privileges and Elections Committee. Our job is to convince them that they should allow this important legislation to go to the full Privileges and Elections Committee for a vote.

These delegates are the same men who tabled this bill in this subcommittee on January 31. They can do so again – against the wishes of the majority of the Senate and millions of women throughout Virginia and the United States. Don’t let that happen!

What can you do??
Call or email the delegates whose names are below. Ask them to pass the ERA and move it into the full Privileges and Elections Committee. (If your email does not go through, please call! There is a sample script below but you may only get the chance to say you are calling to ask the delegate to vote FOR HJ 640, the ERA resolution.) If you are a constituent, say so because they want to please their voters and ask for a reply. Click here to find our who your delegate is. Also tell them you are talking to your friends and neighbors in their district.

Ask your friends to contact these delegates as well. If you cannot make a call or send an email today, please do it over the weekend – as long as it’s before Monday morning.

Members of the Subcommittee on the Constitution — call them all!
Robert Bell of Charlottesville at 804-698-1058 or
Mark Cole of Fredericksburg at 804-698-1088 or
William Janis of Glen Allen at 804-698-1056 or
Jackson Miller of Manassas at 804-698-1050 or
Bud Phillips of Castlewood at 804-698-1002 or
Lacey Putney of Bedford at 804-698-1019 or
Lionel Spruill of Chesapeake at 804-698-1077 or

If this resolution is passed by the House and signed by Governor McDonnell, Virginia will become one of the three states that are needed for the ERA to be included in the Constitution. So the stakes on Monday are great.

Important: The hearing will be held in Conference Room 5W on the fifth floor of the General Assembly Building. Witnesses to the vote are important – our representatives must be accountable. Please join us if you can.

Learn more about the ERA

Sample Short Script
My name is ___________________, and I am calling to voice my support for the ERA. I’m calling for my grandmother, mother and all the women in Virginia. Let’s pass the ERA and move it to the full House of Delegates for a vote. I’m a voter and I’m telling all my neighbors that Virginia has a chance to pass the ERA. We’ll be watching the vote. Women have achieved some rights by statute, court rulings and executive orders. These are hard won but piecemeal and any or all of them can be reversed at any time. Please vote to pass the ERA.

About the Equal Rights Amendment
ERA is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution first proposed in 1923, soon after the amendment providing for the right of American women to vote was adopted. Strong actions to achieve ratification of the ERA reached their height from 1972-1982, when 35 of the 38 required states had ratified. Since then the ERA has been on hold – until now!!!!!

The text of the Equal Rights Amendment has remained the same since 1943:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.” This means that where sex discrimination is now practiced, it must stop. For the first time in U.S. history, people can pursue their life courses according to their interests and capabilities, unlimited by their sex.

Virginia NOW Applauds Senate Bipartisan Vote for Equal Rights Amendment

News Release
Richmond, Virginia, February 7, 2011- The Virginia Senate today shattered a 29-year impasse blocking equal rights for women by passing a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (SJ357). The bipartisan vote was 24-16.

“It was a historical moment – the first time that the ERA has received such solid support in the Commonwealth,” said Virginia NOW President Diana Egozcue. She predicted that other states will follow Virginia’s lead and step up efforts to ratify the amendment. Only three more states are needed for ratification.

The women of Virginia overwhelmingly support the ERA. “Virginia NOW congratulates the Senate for supporting constitutional equality for women. We thank Senator Patsy Ticer, the chief patron of the bill, and Republican Senators Walter Stosch and Harry Blevins for voting their conscience.”

The bill now returns to the House of Delegates, where it will be heard in subcommittee #1 (Constitutional) of the Privileges and Elections Committee on February 14. Although the Privileges and Elections Committee tabled the bill earlier in the session, support for the bill is growing now that the Senate has acted. Delegate Mark Sickles is the chief patron of the bill in the House.

The Equal Rights Amendment states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Thirty-eight states are needed for ratification; currently, 35 states have ratified the ERA to date. The 14th amendment has often been ineffective in supporting women’s constitutional equality. Established law can be thwarted, ignored, weakened, overturned, or made worse. The ERA is an umbrella insurance policy to ensure that laws dealing with equity in education, employment, and other areas, are enforced.

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