What's Up in Virginia and New York?

There have been a lot of scary headlines about what some new abortion bills in Virginia and New York will allow. I wanted to get past the hype and look into the actual facts around these bills myself.

Virginia HB 2491 – Bill to eliminate certain abortion restrictions

This bill became national news when Governor Ralph Northam, in a TV interview, seemed to argue for killing children after they were born in some cases.

Ralph Northam , Attribution: Lee District Democratic Committee  CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Ralph Northam, Attribution: Lee District Democratic Committee CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t think this bill is worth examining because it is probably dead – it is tabled with no current plans to bring it back. We can probably thank the fact that extreme comments about this bill went viral for that. As Virginia’s legislature currently stands, even if it advanced, it would not be approved by the House of Delegates, which has a Republican majority.

House of Delegates Majority Leader C. Todd Gilbert, a Republican, sent WSLS 10 News this statement:

"I think what my Democratic colleagues are most concerned about is what this moment actually revealed. It was a moment of unbridled honesty about their agenda."

New York Reproductive Health Act (RHA)

Unfortunately, most of the horror stories about this law that I’ve seen in the news seem to be true!

Here is the text of the bill itself. This bill is now law in New York. Reading the bill itself is very difficult, because it references dozens of different penal codes. I have answered some pertinent questions below. Most of my answers come from this great article. I personally confirmed these answers with what the bill says, and they seem to match. Most of the quotes below come from the article, not from the bill itself. Because the bill itself explains very little about what it is actually doing, you have to analyze the penal codes to understand what it is getting at. So in this case, a fair analyst can come up with better answers than the text of the bill itself can provide.

  • Does the bill allow abortion up to the moment of birth? Yes. “Abortion is allowed without any restrictions during the first and second trimesters. Later than that, the question is how fetal viability and protection of the life and health of the mother are determined. The RHA says that those judgments are to be made according to ‘the practitioner's reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient's case’; it does not impose any objective medical standard.”*(1)

  • Does the RHA allow non-physicians to perform abortions? Yes. Licensed nurse practitioners or physician assistants can now perform abortions.

  • Does the RHA eliminate any prosecution of fetal death resulting from violence against the mother? Yes. “There is no longer any reference whatsoever to unborn children as possible victims of homicide, the law now effectively excludes them from the definition of ‘human person.’”*(1) See this article by Charles Camosy on the possible implications of this.

  • Can doctors and nurses be forced to perform abortions? Unknown. “The RHA does not contain any explicit provision requiring anyone to perform or provide abortions, but neither does it explicitly provide any exemption for conscientious objection by health care professionals regarding abortion. In other words, it is not yet clear what precise legal effect the ‘fundamental right’ language may have.”*(1)

  • Are there any legal protections for aborted children who are born alive? No. The RHA repealed Section 4164 (which legally protects children born alive), so “the public health law is now silent on the status of an infant born alive during an abortion.”*(1) There is now no criminal punishment in New York for doctors who kill children outside the womb if they are a result of a failed abortion! New York had a section of law to prevent this, but they specifically repealed it.

  • Wouldn't the Federal Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA) give penalties to doctors for killing children born alive? No. BAIPA imposes no criminal penalties. Here is a great article on that act by Hadley Arkes. Regarding why there were no criminal penalties in the act: “By the time it was put in legislative form, the penalties were dropped, in part to avoid a veto from President Clinton (in 2000), but in part also to make the bill a pure ‘teaching’ bill: The bill would break to the public news that most people would find jolting.”*(2) Ben Sasse is now proposing a federal bill which would add penalties for this, the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

  • What good is BAIPA if it doesn't impose any criminal penalties? “Even without civil penalties attached to the Born-Alive Act, it remains one of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of the pro-life side. For it is a real statute, and therefore any hospital or clinic performing a live-birth abortion would not be “in accord with the public policy” of the United States. On that ground, it could lose its tax exemption and all supporting federal funds, a prospect that could be enough in itself to induce people to back away from this business.”*(2)

*1. Sawyer, Sam S.J. (2019, January 30). Explainer: What New York’s new abortion law does and doesn’t do.

*2. Arkes,Hadley. (2013, April 30). Revisit the Born-Alive Act.

Pray with JFA (January)

Pray for Our 2019 Events:

Pray for wisdom as we plan events in the following places this year. Pray that many Christians would have the courage to be “weird” (in the good sense Grace Fontenot described in a recent newsletter), joining us in our aim to create thousands of loving conversations. Pray that God would use those conversations to change many hearts and minds.

  • AR: Fayetteville

  • AZ: Phoenix, Tucson

  • CA: Los Angeles Area

  • CO: Denver, Fort Collins

  • GA: Kennesaw, Atlanta Area

  • OK: Oklahoma City

  • SD: Brookings

  • TX: Dallas, Denton, Austin, Houston

  • VA/MD/DC: Various Cities

  • KS: Manhattan, Lawrence, Wichita

  • LA: Lafayette

  • MI: Lansing

  • MO: Springfield

  • NE: Norfolk

  • NM: Albuquerque

University of Oklahoma (OU) - October 2018

Resource for January - "Americans Are Weird!"

Featured Resource For Equipping Yourself:

Grace Fontenot described a conversation she had at Colorado State University in the fall in a recent letter, “Americans Are Weird!” And Why That’s Fantastic. Her conversation is a beautiful model of how asking just a few open-hearted questions can help a person go from seeming completely closed to the pro-life position to actively engaging the question of whether the unborn are human beings with equal value to the rest of us. Along the way, Grace helped a British student see why something that seemed crazy to him at first, Americans discussing abortion, is actually not crazy at all. Some of our trainers have latched onto a phrase at certain points in our history: “Don’t be weird.” By that they mean, “Don’t add unnecessary weirdness to a message that seems inherently weird to many people.” Grace clarifies in this letter that there is definitely one type of weirdness we should not be afraid of exhibiting — the weirdness of working to create respectful conversations about unborn children.

Conversation Starter for January - Video: Outreach Clip

Use a video we just posted to create a conversation about whether unborn children have equal rights. In the video, Rebecca Hotovy interacts with a student at Colorado State University. She skillfully uses questions to explain how we can be confident unborn children deserve equal treatment to the rest of us. You can find the video here or at the links below. After watching, share it with a friend and ask your friend, “I’m interested in better conversations about abortion, and this seems like an example. I’m curious: What do you think of this woman’s reasoning?”

Pray with JFA in the New Year

Pray for Our Spring 2019 Events:

Pray for the events we’re working to plan in the following places for the spring. Pray for wisdom on the shape to give the events in each place. Pray that the events will be well-attended and will create thousands of conversations that will change hearts and save lives.

UCLA - May 2016

• Washington, D.C.
• Fairfax, VA
• Lafayette, LA
• Springfield, MO
• Lawrence, KS
• Wichita, KS

• Denton, TX
• Austin, TX
• Houston, TX
• Brookings, SD
• Albuquerque, NM
• Atlanta Area, GA

• Los Angeles, CA
• Denver Area, CO
• Lansing, MI
• Norfolk, NE
• Phoenix, AZ
• Your Town?

Featured Resource for December - Car vs. Polaroid Distinction

Richard Stith has made a distinction between construction of a car and development of a Polaroid photo that can help you understand and illustrate for friends how the unborn child is a human organism from the time of fertilization. You can read his entry-level treatment of this topic, “Arguing with Pro-Choicers” (First Things, Nov. 4, 2006), and his scholarly article, “Construction vs. Development: Polarizing Models of Human Gestation” (Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 2014), through the link below.

Featured Conversation Starter for December - "The Miraculous Journey" Re-Unveiled in Doha, Qatar

Use the recent re-unveiling of “The Miraculous Journey” in Doha, Qatar to create a conversation about unborn children in a natural way. To help, we’ve posted a link to the photo essay by Penny Yi Wang which she published in 2013 at the original unveiling. Note in our post that we aim to begin the conversation with common ground:

Whatever your views on human development and abortion, can we all agree these amazing pictures show sculptures that are an amazing human feat illuminating an amazing human journey? (Damien Hirst's "The Miraculous Journey" was just re-unveiled last month.)

It's in Our Nature

I remember seeing news stories about “The Miraculous Journey,” a massive 14-piece sculpture by Damien Hirst, when it was unveiled in 2013 in Doha, Qatar. I was amazed at the scale of this public dialogue tool, chronicling the development of the unborn from fertilization to birth. (I thought, “I wish everyone could see this. It would be sure to get people talking.” Indeed, you can use this link to Penny Yi Wang’s photos of the sculpture to get people talking!) Shortly after its unveiling, the sculpture was covered, and it mysteriously remained covered for about five years.

Just last month, though, the sculpture was “born again” and is now back on public display. It illustrates the nature of the early human being at work. His human nature moves him from comfortable dependence on his mother’s womb out into the harsh realities of a foreign world, and his human nature enables him to confront those challenges.

At this time of Christmas, we’re reminded of how the Son of God, possessing the divine nature as the second person of the Trinity, took on that same human nature and “lived in it” with perfection, as human life was meant to be lived. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our human nature has been made new by faith:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Cor. 5:17-21)

The Son of God took on a second nature to save us, and now a new set of activities can become “second nature” for us. Just as the nature of the early human enables him to accomplish all of his activities, our new nature enables us to bring the word of reconciliation as Christ’s ambassadors to lost people operating in an old nature based on old things.

As we celebrate Jesus this Christmas and come into the harsh realities of a new year, with all of its challenges to the smallest humans on earth and to women distressed by unintended pregnancy, this is our prayer for ourselves and for you:

“Loving Father, through Your Son Jesus you gave us a new nature to love and serve you. We trust you will strengthen us to live according to this new nature, as we seek to bring the word of reconciliation to every human being involved in unintended pregnancies.”

Thank you for partnering with us to help Christians discover the abilities of this new God-given nature through practical dialogue training. It is a joy to see them extend the word of reconciliation to those who so desperately need it.

Damien Hirst Sculptures Back on Display in Doha

Pray with JFA (November)

Pray for Recent and Upcoming Events (Partial List):

JFA Intern Kaitlyn Donihue (pink) creates conversation at OU. The signs to her right show content from our new “Invitation to Dialogue” brochure, which is our featured resource as well as our featured conversation starter this month.

Our team has been busy in Oklahoma and Texas these past few weeks, and we just wrapped up events in New Mexico and Maryland. Please pray for the many conversations we’ve had and the Christians we’ve been training for a lifetime of service.

  • Oct. 29-30 (Norman, OK): Outreach Event — University of Oklahoma (OU)

  • Nov. 11 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — Denton Bible Church

  • Nov. 12 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — University of North Texas (UNT)

  • Nov. 13-15 (Denton, TX): Kiosk Outreach Events — University of North Texas (UNT)

  • Nov. 27 (Albuquerque, NM): Interactive Workshop — University of New Mexico (UNM)

  • Nov. 27 (Austin, TX): Panel Discussion — Jeremy Gorr — Texas Students for Life Event

  • Nov. 28 (Wichita, KS): Interactive Workshop — Tammy Cook — SEAS Catholic Church

  • Nov. 28-29 (Albuquerque, NM): Kiosk Outreach Event — University of New Mexico (UNM)

  • Dec. 1 (Pomfret, MD): Keynote & Panel — Steve Wagner — Charles County Right to Life

  • Dec. 5 (Arkansas City, KS): Interactive Workshop — Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Featured Resource for November - New "Invitation to Dialogue" Brochure

Learn to use JFA’s new “Invitation to Dialogue” Brochure in the third section of JFA’s updated “Learn at Home” Program. It features a short script you can use to start a conversation with a friend using the brochure. It also includes a longer script that helps you dig deeper into all of the resources referenced in the brochure. The entire “Learn at Home” Program takes just one hour to complete (followed by a conversation you start with a friend), and this portion of the program takes only 15 minutes!

Featured Conversation Starter for November - New "Invitation to Dialogue" Brochure

Use JFA’s new “Invitation to Dialogue” Brochure to start a conversation with a friend in a natural way. (Click here to download the brochure to your phone or request a paper version.) The brochure begins with an invitation to understand and show concern for women experiencing unintended pregnancy: “Unintended pregnancy is not simple, and it’s not easy.” Then it invites the viewer to consider the question, “Is the unborn a human being with equal rights?” After being warned, the viewer can lift a page to view accurate, graphic images of early abortions, and the brochure asks if the pictures depict a medical procedure or the killing of a human being. Finally, the brochure invites the viewer to explore solutions for unintended pregnancies.

Faithful in the Field

November 2018

This Impact Report features pictures of recent outreach events. We’ve been testing a new smaller type of sign as well as content from our new dialogue brochure.

To complement the pictures, I’ve asked each of our trainers to select the names of a couple of people you have helped us reach in the past few months. Let’s give thanks to God for each of these and many more we’ve had the opportunity to serve.

We are privileged to stand with you each month training Christians to create conversations that make a difference in how people think and feel about abortion. Our aim is always to stay faithful in the field, trusting God to bring change through our efforts, in spite of our weaknesses. Please consider continuing to stand with us through prayers and a generous year-end gift.

- Steve Wagner, Executive Director

Rebecca Hotovy (sitting) interacts with a student at KU. Volunteer Pauline listens.

“Thank you for helping me share with ‘Ben’ how valuable he is. He felt children with cleft pallet should be aborted because he had a cleft pallet and knew how society had treated him. He was very lonely. Thanks also for helping me mentor Ashley, pro-life club president at the University of Kansas (KU), during her third outreach with JFA!” – Rebecca Hotovy

Pauline volunteered again at OU. Here Tammy Cook and Pauline interact with a student near the Free Speech Board.

“One of the standout students that I mentored this fall was Nate. He said, ‘Loved this training today. It felt like I gained so much more knowledge. Definitely changed what I thought was supposed to be having a debate with someone, to genuinely caring and kind and having a conversation.’ A chain reaction has begun as Nate uses what he learned to make an impact for God’s kingdom. I’m also thankful for a student named Sarah at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Through her personal experience with losing a child, I was reminded to lean into the Holy Spirit in tough conversations, especially when discussing the topic of losing a child, whether to abortion or miscarriage. Thank you for your sacrifices that make our work possible.” – Tammy Cook

Steve Wagner (center) interacts at GMU.

“I thank God for the chance to interact with ‘Andrew’ at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia. He really wrestled with what explains equal rights and whether the unborn should be included. I also talked in depth with a young woman at GMU who claimed to be a Christian but who believed women can get abortions because they have a right to their bodies. I had the privilege of mentoring and encouraging Sarah, a high-school student who courageously shared her faith and her pro-life view with students at OU for two days. Our team was also encouraged to see other volunteers, including Pauline, Lauren, Jasmin, Ian, Mark Bryant, and Mark Wood, join our team for multiple days of outreach this fall!” – Steve Wagner

At OU, we filled a large expanse of lawn with conversations sparked by content from our Art of Life Exhibit, our Stop and Think Exhibit, and our new Invitation to Dialogue Brochure.

Grace Fontenot (red sweater) interacts with students at UNT. Note the new poll question JFA trainers have been testing.

“This past October during JFA’s outreach at OU, I was able to mentor a high school student named Haven. Haven is only 15, but her passion for defending the smallest humans on earth is incredible. Thank you for making it possible for me to encourage and assist in honing her skills as an advocate. Thank you, also, for the gift of making it possible for me to meet Katie in Georgia. Our conversation began with her feeling discouraged and angry and ended with her feeling listened to as we discussed whether or not the unborn is human, what we can do to help women in difficult situations so that they don’t feel that they have to choose abortion, and whether or not Jesus Christ is God. These women are very different from one another, but what they have in common is that they were both impacted by Justice For All, so thank you for making it possible for us to pour into people like Haven and Katie.” – Grace Fontenot

“I am thankful for Howa who is passionate about her pro-life beliefs. I was thrilled to be able to tag-team conversation with her on campus. I am also thankful for the opportunity I had to share the truth about abortion and my faith with Abdul, a Muslim student at the University of North Texas (UNT).” – Kaitlyn Donihue

Kaitlyn Donihue (pink) creates conversation at OU. Note how the juxtaposed imagery of mother and child makes it clearer that we care about both.

Jon Wagner debriefs with Christian Heritage Academy students after outreach at OU.

“Thank you for helping me equip Haley last week in Denton, Texas. She was extremely thankful to learn how to take the abortion controversy from contentious debate to healthy dialogue. You helped me reach out to Eva at our UNT outreach event. Although she didn’t shift her view 100%, Eva was challenged by our pro-life perspective. She was thankful that I acknowledged the complexity of foster care. She admitted that abortion doesn’t fix the challenges related to foster care.” – Jon Wagner

Paul Kulas interacts with a student at UMN. New signs enhance JFA’s poll table outreach.

“Thank you for allowing me to train Kyra, a high-school student who joined JFA for outreach at OU. As I mentored her on campus, she was able to see firsthand how the training prepared her for real-life conversations with those of differing views on abortion. I am thankful for meeting Camden, a freshman pro-life student at OU, whom I was able to encourage and challenge to become active in the pro-life movement.” – Paul Kulas

Jeremy Gorr (right) interacts with students near our poll table at Kennesaw State University (KSU).

“Thank you for allowing me to train Max at Christian Heritage Academy who came to the University of Oklahoma (OU) with us and did a great job at outreach. Thank you for allowing me to talk to Matthew at the University of Minnesota (UMN) during outreach, which opened up an ongoing dialogue about abortion, God, and Christianity.” – Jeremy Gorr

Pray with JFA (October)

Pray for Recent and Upcoming Events (Partial List):

JFA Executive Director, Steve Wagner, talks with students at George Mason University (Oct. 17, 2018).

Our team has been busy in GA, KS, MN, VA, and TX recently, and we’re preparing for upcoming events in OK, MO, CO, and TX. Please pray for the many conversations we’re creating, including the one described in Jeremy Gorr’s letter, “My Mom Wanted to Abort Me.” We thank God for the change Jeremy was able to see take place in Amin’s life.

  • Oct. 7-9 (Minneapolis, MN): Workshop and Kiosk Outreach — University of Minnesota

  • Oct. 17 (Fairfax, VA): Poll Table Outreach — George Mason University

  • Oct. 21 (San Antonio, TX): Workshop — Students for the Right to Life at UTSA

  • Oct. 25 (Del City, OK): Interactive Seminar — Christian Heritage Academy

  • Oct. 28 (St. Louis, MO): Workshops — Respect Life Conference

  • Oct. 28 (Norman, OK): Interactive Seminar — Trinity Baptist Church

  • Oct. 29-30 (Norman, OK): Outreach Event — University of Oklahoma

  • Nov. 11 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — Denton Bible Church

  • Nov. 12 (Denton, TX): Interactive Workshop — University of North Texas

  • TBD (Denton, TX): Outreach Events — TBD