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Court Days
By Stephen J. Rossie

Square2017 imageRICHMOND, VA – In the Colonial era, there was no bigger time in the Colony of Virginia than court days. Whether at the county seat or in the capital city of Williamsburg people, not even involved in the cases, came to town. The trials were great forms of entertainment and the crowds attracted merchants selling their wares. Taverns were filled at night with men trading stories and political news and views.

Even today nothing gets people excited as court cases. Crowds on one side or another of an issue assemble at courthouses to make their points. Politicians show up to sop up the free media time and there certainly is an exchange of views between those in attendance.

Court sessions no longer are bound by the calendar, but by coincidence there are two cases on the same subject, though different aspects, in different court systems, that surely will have people talking. One, which has been in state circuit court for a while, alleges violations of Virginia’s Administrative Process Act — guidelines regulators must follow — by the Department of Health during its process of removing certain abortion center safety standards during the McAuliffe Administration. The standards are required by Virginia statute.

Attorney General Mark Herring, heavily funded by the abortion industry, fought the suit on a couple of procedural grounds, including the standing of the citizens who brought it. Henrico County Circuit Court Judge John Marshall ruled each time that the trial could proceed, generally considered a sign the court is favorable to the complaint. But this trial has received little attention.

Late last month, to great media fanfare, Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry teamed up with the ACLU to file a suit in federal court to invalidate the entire law. The action is part of a nationally coordinated effort to repeal such laws in states in which they exist.

Apparently, the abortion industry didn’t anticipate Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court because multiple cases result in conflicting rulings. Ultimately, the nine black robes in D.C. iron out those inconsistencies.

Speaking of inconsistencies, the big question regarding the case is whether Herring will defend Virginia’s law as vigorously as he defends its regulations. In the past, despite his oath of office to defend the laws of the commonwealth, he has declined action in certain cases. In one, he infamously joined the suit AGAINST the commonwealth. Picking certain laws to defend and forcing an ad hoc defense of others mocks Virginia. The majority General Assembly Republicans have ramped up the pressure on Herring to side with the state but are preparing to fund the commonwealth’s defense if necessary as it has in the past.

Among the particulars of the law challenged in the suit as "undue burdens,” some of which the Health Department is attempting to water down, are that abortion centers obtain a license, that abortions after 14 weeks gestation be performed at a hospital, that a physician perform the abortion, informed consent (including an ultrasound 24 hours prior to the abortion), and criminal penalties for abortion providers who violate the safety standards.

Requiring a doctor to perform the abortion and providing the woman with information about the procedure are "undue burdens”? These so-called "undue burdens” are generally considered "common sense” — and are commonplace in all other areas of surgery. But the abortion industry apparently thinks itself, and itself alone, worthy of exemption.

Stephen J. (Steve) Rossie is a Richmond-based public and government relations consultant. He has been a General Assembly lobbyist since 2006 and has written about Virginia government since 2007.


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