Virginia bishops condemn Good Friday signing of abortion bill

northam Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam speaking in front of Alexandria City Hall, March 2019. | Eli Wilson/Shutterstock

Virginia's Catholic bishops lamented a decision by the state's governor to sign abortion legislation passed in the Virginia legislature earlier this year. The bishops said it is offensive to pro-life Christians that the governor chose Good Friday as the day to sign the legislation.

"Yesterday, Governor Northam announced that he had signed the so-called 'Reproductive Health Protection Act'(SB 733 & HB 980). We are deeply saddened and disappointed by his signature of this legislation. 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," Bishops Michael Burbidge and Barry Knestout said in an April 11 statement.

The Reproductive Health Protection Act first passed the state House, and then passed Virginia's state Senate Jan. 29, more than 11 weeks ago.

The bill, which is now law, repeals a Virginia law mandating that only doctors can perform abortions, allowing other medical professionals, such as physicians assistants and nurse practictioners, to perform them.

The law also repeals requirements that women be given specific information about the abortion procedure before it takes place, and that an ultrasound be performed before any abortion.

The law also exempts abortion clinics from hospital regulatory standards for safety and cleanliness. It takes effect July 1.

"Over the past eight years, abortions have decreased by 42% in Virginia. Tragically but undoubtedly, these changes to our state law will reverse that life-saving progress and increase the number of abortions," the state's bishops said April 11.

"In February, we joined thousands of people of many different faiths to proclaim life at our state capitol at the second annual March for Life. Regrettably, the Governor and a majority of Virginia's legislators have adopted a far different message."

"Though elected officials have stripped Virginia law of many longstanding provisions that protect unborn children and the health and safety of women, the pursuit of a culture of life in our Commonwealth will persevere," the bishops added.

Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement that "The Reproductive Health Protection Act will make women and families safer, and I'm proud to sign it into law."

"No more will legislators in Richmond-most of whom are men-be telling women what they should and should not be doing with their bodies," the governor added.

The governor did not indicate why he had chosen Good Friday to sign the bill.

For their part, the bishops said that pro-life efforts in the state "will continue to save lives because the sacrificial, life-giving love that Christ pours out on us is abundant, fruitful and overflowing."

"As the Easter season begins, the Lord of life calls us to embrace new life in Him. Through this new life, let us come together with renewed zeal in prayer, advocacy and witness for life."

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