RICHMOND, Virginia, April 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – In back-to-back actions on two of the holiest days in Christendom, the governor of Virginia signed into law two bills that will likely increase abortions and jeopardize religious liberty via new LGBT protections in the state.
In what has been described as a “signing spree,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam raced to sign into law measures passed by the state legislature before the April 11 deadline.
On Good Friday, Northam signed the so-called “Reproductive Health Protection Act,” loosening several protective restrictions for the preborn that had previously been enacted.
“We are deeply saddened and disappointed by his signature of this legislation,” wrote Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond in a joint statement.
“That he would take this action on Good Friday, one of the most solemn days for Christians, is a particular affront to all who profess the Gospel of life,” they continued.
“The legislation signed by the Governor repeals health and safety protections at abortion facilities, allows non-physicians to perform first-trimester abortions, and removes essential informed consent requirements, including the opportunity to view an ultrasound,” noted the bishops.
“Over the past eight years, abortions have decreased by 42 percent in Virginia,” they continued. “Tragically but undoubtedly, these changes to our state law will reverse that life-saving progress and increase the number of abortions.”
“Governor Northam’s so-called Reproductive Health Protection Act has nothing to do with health or keeping women safe,” declared March for Life in a tweet. “It’s simply another step from a pro-abortion governor seeking to make abortion as widespread as possible in Virginia.”
Governor Northam’s so-called Reproductive Health Protection Act has nothing to do with health or keeping women safe. It’s simply another step from a pro-abortion governor seeking to make abortion as widespread as possible in Virginia. https://t.co/QLM6TE0baB
— March for Life (@March_for_Life) April 11, 2020
“Virginia’s abortion businesses had been kept in dangerous condition for years. Stricter regulations had been put in place nearly a decade ago after every abortion business inspection in the state uncovered major health and safety violations, even though staffers knew in advance that the inspections were going to take place,” explained a report by LiveAction detailing why the restrictions had been put in place. “Violations included staffers not knowing which instruments had been used and which were clean, and storing expired drugs. One facility also had a freezer filled with blood and the frozen remains of aborted babies.”
On Holy Saturday, Gov. Northam signed the “Virginia Values Act,” which added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination law.
Progressive advocacy groups and some political observers applauded the move, claiming it will simply protect against dicrimination in public employment, housing and credit on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love,” said Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David.
“Equality Virginia has been working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for years to create a safer and more welcoming commonwealth for LGBTQ people,” added Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia. “This law will have a transformative and positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ Virginians.”
But there is also an onerous side of the law that threatens religious liberty in the Old Dominion.
“Every Virginian deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, laws that elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes have a proven record of undermining both fairness and freedom for all citizens,” warned Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Gregory S. Baylor in January.
“While Virginia’s delegates claim that their new legislation would stamp out such discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment, these bills actually promise to harm women and girls, undercut the First Amendment, and place a special burden on people of faith,” continued Baylor.
“Whether they intend to or not, Virginia lawmakers who support sexual orientation and gender identity bills are choosing to coerce uniformity of thought and speech on beliefs about marriage, sex, and gender,” added Baylor.
“In other words, if you don't think people with male genitalia should be using girls' bathrooms or competing in women's sports, you're a criminal,” he explained.
The Virginia Values Act just passed makes criminal discrimination on the basis of “gender identity”. In other words if you don't think people with male genitalia should be using girls' bathrooms or competing in women's sports, you're a criminal.
— David Horowitz (@horowitz39) April 10, 2020
“The law stipulates that small businesses with fewer than 15 employees would have to abide by strict anti-discrimination laws that require the business to pay for the legal fees of a worker who wins a case, but the workers wouldn’t have to pay the employer’s legal fees if the employer wins the case,” warned Daily Signal contributer Jarrett Stepman in January.
“As lawyer Hans Bader wrote, this is a potentially enormous financial burden for a small business and could encourage frivolous lawsuits. It could do significant damage to Virginia’s economy,” said Stepman.
Gov. Northam’s signing of the Virginia Values Act came a month after he signed a bill outlawing “conversion therapy” for anyone under age 18. While a counselor could encourage a young boy to try to “become” a girl, the counselor would not be allowed to affirm the boy’s male identity.
Last year, Northam defended comments he made concerning a bill that not only would have allowed abortion up until the moment of birth, but doctors would have been able to refuse to resuscitate an infant born alive after a failed abortion “if that’s what the mother and the family desire.”
Ben Shapiro and others called it “Infanticide” and “pure evil.”
After attracting national attention, the bill was tabled by its Democrat supporters in the Virginia House.
Both laws signed by Gov. Northam over Easter Weekend go into effect on July 1.