.- “Countless hours” of behind-the-scenes advocacy helped add significant restrictions on abortion funding to the Virginia budget, the director of the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) has explained. Recounting how years of work finally succeeded, he said the participation of involved Catholics made “the critical difference.”
In an account posted on the blog of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, VCC head Jeff Caruso noted that the Conference has pushed for restrictions on abortion since its inception in 2005. Its figures showed that Virginian taxpayers have been paying for more than 100 abortions per year.
“Promotion of laws that uphold the sanctity of life is an important part of the pro-life work of Catholic Virginians,” Caruso noted, saying that this includes outreach to women in crisis pregnancies and post-abortion outreach.
Members of the VCC’s e-mail advocacy network “consistently” voiced their opposition to paying for abortions in “hundreds” of e-mails to their delegates and state senators, he recalled. However, in each General Assembly session the House of Delegates would approve abortion-funding restrictions but these would be rejected by “a few Senate leaders” during final budget negotiations.
According to Caruso, the support of Gov. Bob McDonnell helped power the success of the 2010 restriction effort. On April 13, the governor proposed an amendment to ban state funding of all abortions except those required by federal law or state statute.
“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,” Caruso commented.
The VCC sent multiple alerts to its network, communicated with key senators, and coordinated with allied pro-life organizations. The Conference also provided urgent bulletin and pulpit announcements to parishes and then followed up with parish leaders in key districts.
While the Senate vote appeared to be a 20-20 tie that could be broken by the vote of the anti-funding Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling, he was stranded in Italy because of the volcanic activity in Iceland.
This resulted in intensified pro-life efforts. While the House approved the amendment by a 64-30 margin, the Catholic Conference learned that one of the Senate’s pro-life legislators had to catch a plane flight before the Senate vote.
At 9:00 p.m. on April 21, Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) explained the amendment and “effectively” countered the arguments of the five senators who spoke against the bill, according to Caruso.
“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!”
Caruso reported that there was an “unprecedented level” of responses to VCC network alerts on the abortion funding restriction proposal. Those who responded to the alert, including parishes who promoted it, made “the critical difference.”
The VCC head urged Catholics in Virginia to visit the Conference’s website, http://vacatholic.org, and enroll as a network member.