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Virginia's uncertain pro-life future

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Fresh off the Virginia March for Life in Richmond and with the hopes of continuing the momentum, Jeff Caruso, executive director, Virginia Catholic Conference, and others gathered to share their thoughts on the extreme abortion law in New York and what may happen in Virginia.

“Abortion Until Birth: The New Extreme Abortion Law in New York and How it May Come to Virginia” panel was held at Christ the Redeemer Church in Sterling April 7.

Cathleen Ruse, senior legal fellow, Family Research Council; Edward Whelan, president, Ethics and Public Policy Center; Greg Schleppenbach, pro-life secretariat, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Caruso, spoke at the event.

The conference was co-sponsored by Christ the Redeemer; St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls; St. John the Beloved Church in McLean; Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls; and Catholic Trust for the Lay Faithful.

“Even before Roe v. Wade, Catholics were the ones organizing to defend the unborn,” Ruse said as she opened the conference. “We founded the National Right to Life 50 years ago and it’s still the most grounded grassroots organization in the country. We run the March for Life. We Catholics sent over 40 million postcards to Capitol Hill calling for a ban on partial birth abortion. They still talk about it on the hill. There are many other examples.

“Being a part of this human rights struggle is our calling and we as Catholics have answered that call and continue to answer that call,” said Ruse. “That is why we are here today.”

Schleppenbach spoke about the New York abortion law, breaking down the details of the protections it removed for babies born alive. “There were previously certain protections, (such as) a second physician to help,” he said. “It removes that aspect of having a second doctor. There’s no certainty at all that a born alive baby won’t be left to die untreated or directly killed.”

He also mentioned other extreme abortion bills.

“It’s hard to imagine anything more extreme than New York, but Illinois makes it more extreme,” Schleppenbach said. “You can have an abortion for any reason or no reason under this proposed legislation.”

Caruso said it was important for people to continue to engage in the process of fighting for pro-life legislation. “There was a lot of coverage of the Equal Rights Amendment, with a threat to the unborn if the amendment is ratified,” said Caruso.

The Equal Rights Amendment advocates for the equality of women, but “leading pro-abortion groups have utilized the ERA, where the language has been adopted into state constitutions, as a tool to challenge laws that treat abortion differently from other procedures,” said Caruso.

Caruso said for the last 14 years, the VCC has been working to get the Hyde Amendment policy into the state budget. “The Virginia General Assembly passed budget amendments that included the Hyde Amendment for the first time since VCC started,” he said. “The federal Hyde Amendment largely restricts taxpayer funding of abortion and has saved many lives over the years.” 

The General Assembly approved the Hyde restrictions Feb. 24. Governor Ralph Northam tried to undo it with his amendment. The General Assembly rejected the governor’s amendment April 3, preserving the full Hyde restrictions, said Caruso.

Whelan pointed out that Roe v. Wade was “fundamentally hostile to core precepts of American government and citizenship.”

He said political and media figures routinely misrepresent and understate the radical nature of the abortion regime that the court imposed in Roe v. Wade.

“Roe is often said, for example, merely to have created a constitutional right to abortion during the first three months of pregnancy,” Whelan said. “Nothing in Roe remotely supports such a characterization.” 

“Roe needs to be overturned,” he said. “I’m hopeful that will happen soon. The court might prefer to proceed incrementally, and some justices might be looking for the perfect time to do it.”

The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session.

Catherine Alifrangis, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena, attended the event to learn more. “This discussion about what almost happened here and what happened in New York is horrendous,” she said. “I don’t know what I can do, but I need to have the information to be able to talk about it and in whatever way I can support the pro-life movement.”

“The panel provided an important platform for understanding the threats that are out there with extreme abortion legislation,” said Father Mark E. Moretti, Christ the Redeemer parochial vicar. 

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