Article

Why we must oppose Virginia’s effort to liberalize abortion laws

February 04, 2020

Last week a bill that would undo pro-life measures in Virginia passed the state senate after a 20-20 tie was broken by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. The legislation, Senate Bill 733, a similar version of which has already passed Virginia’s House of Delegates, would remove requirements that abortions be performed by doctors, allowing nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to perform the procedure. But more importantly, it would also repeal the informed-consent measures currently in place in the Commonwealth. 

Currently, Virginia law requires a woman seeking an abortion to receive basic information about both the abortion procedure and the development of the fetus at least 24 hours before undergoing an abortion. These informed-consent measures require:

  1. A full, reasonable and comprehensible medical explanation of the nature, benefits, and risks of and alternatives to the proposed procedures or protocols to be followed in her particular case;
  2. An instruction that the woman may withdraw her consent at any time prior to the performance of the procedure;
  3. An offer for the woman to speak with the physician who is to perform the abortion so that he may answer any questions that the woman may have and provide further information concerning the procedures and protocols;
  4. A statement of the probable gestational age of the fetus at the time the abortion is to be performed and that fetal ultrasound imaging shall be performed prior to the abortion to confirm the gestational age.

SB 733 would repeal each of these measures. And the bill is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, who came under fire nationally for comments he made about abortion early in 2019. 

This is precisely the wrong move for Virginia. No one, on either side of the abortion debate, disagrees about the significance of abortion. This is why the constant refrain of those who are pro-choice is that decisions about abortion should be made by a woman and her doctor. Thus, it is extraordinarily difficult to understand why Democratic lawmakers in Virginia are seeking to limit the rights of women when it comes to accessing the most vital information related to their pregnancies. Ahead of what other medical procedure would the state purposefully limit disclosures to the individual receiving services?

By requiring an ultrasound and guaranteeing pregnant women receive accurate information about what an abortion procedure entails, informed-consent laws protect women. As a legal brief submitted to the Supreme Court defending informed-consent laws in Kentucky argued, “The rationale behind [these laws] is the common sense notion that nothing can better inform a patient of the nature and consequences of an abortion than actually seeing an image of the fetus who will be aborted and receiving a medically-accurate description of that image.”

As Christians we will always proclaim the grace, mercy, and total forgiveness that is available through faith in Jesus. But at the same time, we should work to oppose any attempt on the part of the state to promote ignorance in service to abortion.

But passing this legislation is not about doing what is best for women. It’s about removing any impediment to abortion, regardless of the consequences. Consider, for a moment, the value of informed-consent laws: They guarantee, as far as possible, that any woman seeking an abortion is presented with the best and most relevant information concerning her pregnancy and its termination. And given that the stakes are literally life and death, the state should accept nothing less.

So what exactly is the compelling reason to curtail these measures? Frankly, there isn’t one. No doubt in some cases a woman may reconsider her plans to undergo an abortion after receiving an ultrasound or having the steps of the procedure explained to her. What is unclear, however, is why this is a problem. Surely, a mother choosing to love and raise her child or to carry the child to term in pursuit of an adoption is always a better outcome—even when doing so comes at great cost or requires personal sacrifice.

This brings us to another way these measures protect women, which is from the insidious lies of the abortion lobby. The reality is that abortion perpetrates violence against the unborn. But the false promises of abortion advocates prey upon the vulnerability of frightened women facing fearful situations. Telling women considering abortion that the decision is personal, the consequences are temporary, and that the memory fades may soothe their consciences, but it is far from true. 

An abortion is something that can never be erased. And that is because every person has a conscience, which was embedded within them by God. Because abortion is nothing less than the taking of an innocent life, no matter how confident a person may be about receiving or supporting an abortion, their conscience will never be silent. Being complicit in the taking of an innocent life is not something one can simply forget. And no matter how many times the lie is repeated that an abortion is some kind of personal choice that can be made and then forgotten, the fact is that this “decision” is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

Women who are frightened or desperate deserve better than the lies of the abortion lobby. And they certainly deserve to know all of the facts about what it means to terminate a pregnancy. Informed-consent laws provide that opportunity. They give women a chance to face the gravity of abortion before it is too late—which matters a great deal, because abortion isn’t something one can take back or undo. Who knows how many mothers and fathers could be spared a lifetime of grief and regret because of a completely painless ultrasound?

As Christians we will always proclaim the grace, mercy, and total forgiveness that is available through faith in Jesus. But at the same time, we should work to oppose any attempt on the part of the state to promote ignorance in service to abortion. The lies of the abortion lobby not only lead to the deaths of innocent children, but pave over the consciences of vulnerable women. They must not go unchallenged.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester serves as the Chair of Research in Christian Ethics at the ERLC. He is also pursuing a Th.M. in Public Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Josh is married to McCaffity, and they have two children. Read More by this Author