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Legislation on abortion, marijuana, adoption agencies

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Several weeks into this year’s legislative session, Virginia’s General Assembly is considering many bills that are of concern to Catholics. In welcome news, it’s very likely the commonwealth will abolish capital punishment. But both chambers also have passed bills allowing plans available on Virginia’s health insurance exchange to cover abortion.

“Replacing the current life-saving restrictions on abortion with a policy of abortion coverage in our state exchange is drastic,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge during his Feb. 2 “Walk Humbly Podcast.” “It will result in the tragic end to more unborn lives, and additionally in poll after poll, citizens do not want their tax dollars going toward abortion.” 

Both chambers recently passed bills that would legalize adult recreational use of marijuana and make it legal to sell marijuana. As the Senate and the House of Delegates passed slightly different versions of the bill, in the coming days they will work to create a final version. If passed into law, retail commerce of marijuana is likely to begin in 2024, according to the office of Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax). 

The Virginia Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the Virginia bishops, opposed the measure, saying, “Data and the experiences of other states clearly show that doing so would lead to more addiction, mental illness, suicide and traffic deaths — dangerously harming many children, breaking up families and even ending lives.” 

The House of Delegates passed a bill that would repeal conscience protections for adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill soon. In his podcast, Bishop Burbidge spoke about the harm this legislation would do to Virginia families. 

“It’s saying that Catholic agencies are second class because we follow our faith. It says that our teaching on marriage makes us unfit to take at-risk children and find (them) good, loving homes with parents who welcome them. It's very insulting to who we are and to the faith that we profess,” he said. “This is not the time to limit the number of agencies placing children in healthy homes by limiting the number of agencies that can help in adoption services. Only kids and families suffer by doing that.”

Recently, diocesan Catholic Charities has seen an increase in the number of new families beginning pre-placement training to open their homes to children waiting to be adopted, according to a Jan. 26 press release. Last year, the organization helped to facilitate more than 100 adoptions. Catholic Charities also supports the birth families and adoptive families with training for providing a nurturing environment to children experiencing trauma and abuse, support groups and a variety of therapy and mental health services. 

“For three-quarters of a century, Catholic Charities' adoption services have provided critical support to families in crisis and those working to build loving forever families,” said Stephen Carattini, diocesan Catholic Charities president and CEO. “We know our work supporting the selfless, loving parents who open their arms to welcome these children has a lifelong impact on the children and an immeasurable impact on the broader community.”

In a Feb. 5 email, the VCC urged Catholics to contact their representatives, saying, “In prayer and in public, your voices are urgently needed to bring Gospel values to bear on vital decisions being made by those who represent you.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021