As Reagan recently reported, Virginia made news on Wednesday for abolishing the death penalty after legislation passed by both chambers was was sent to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who signed the ban.
The governor tweeted and retweeted numerous statements and news articles, as well as a live stream feed of the signing ceremony.
Join us live as I sign legislation abolishing the death penalty in Virginia: https://t.co/KRWrqEHuey— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) March 24, 2021
Today, Virginia ended its 400-year history of carrying out executions, becoming the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty.— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) March 24, 2021
Signing this law is the moral thing to do. pic.twitter.com/xJ116GVPOE
Virginia has now become the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty, with Gov. Ralph Northam citing inequalities in criminal justice: “We can’t sentence people to the ultimate punishment knowing that this system doesn’t work the same for everyone.” pic.twitter.com/hH7T5uBVoy— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 24, 2021
One particularly noteworthy retweet from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement applauding Gov. Northam's signature.
Let the end of capital punishment in Virginia be a clarion call to our country and the world—the death penalty has no place in our society.@Pontifex @WashArchbishop @ArchbishopGomez https://t.co/R3dLhYkQMT— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) March 24, 2021
It's not that the Catholic Church isn't opposed to the death penalty, which it is, and that it's not something the Church sees worth commending, which it does. More importantly, though, the Church is opposed to abortion.
Again, that is particularly noteworthy because Virginia's governor gained negative, national attention for casually advocating for infanticide on a radio program while discussing the protocols if a baby was born alive from an abortion. Emphasis is added:
The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.
Days later, medical school yearbook photos resurfaced in which Gov. Northam was either wearing a KKK hood or blackface. Though he's never indicated who he is in that picture, Gov. Northam admitted he had donned blackface for a Michael Jackson moonwalk contest. While owning up to this at a press conference, a reporter asked about Gov. Northam's moonwalking abilities, and the grown man's wife had to actually make it clear to him that he would not be demonstrating such skills. Matt has an excellently thorough take on it all.
Calls poured in for Northam to resign, though he stubbornly managed to dismiss them. Instead, he will serve out his term until a new governor is inaugurated in January 2022. The Virginia Constitution prohibits governors from serving back-to-back terms, so if Northam wants to run again, it will have to be in 2025. Former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who was elected in 2013 in a narrow race against Ken Cuccinelli, is doing just that for the 2021 race and is considered the frontrunner.
Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, tweeted a call for consistency on the issue.
No baby deserves the death penalty, and the real death row in America is the cold, dark, filthy chairs inside the Planned Parenthood abortion facility.#AbolishAbortion for innocent human beings. #AbolishtheDeathPenalty for convicted criminals.— Kristan Hawkins (@KristanHawkins) March 25, 2021
Both are human beings.
According to reporting from NBC's Amanda Golden and Geoff Bennett, the latter who spoke to the governor in an exclusive interview, Northam said, "When one looks at the history, close to 1,400 individuals have been executed. The great majority of those individuals were African American. And so that number was disproportionate. The fence, the representation of African Americans has no doubt been disproportionate."
Virginia came within days of executing an innocent man, and Black defendants are disproportionately represented on death row.— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) March 25, 2021
I spoke with @GeoffRBennett about moving beyond the discriminatory practices of our past and advancing criminal justice reform:pic.twitter.com/ouPOftGubG
Sadly, the same exact thing could be said for African American babies who are aborted. As I wrote when it comes to the Hyde Amendment, legislation is being reintroduced in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate to repeal such protections:
The bill's sponsors and supporters cry racism when it comes to how poor women and women of color cannot pay out of pocket for abortions. Lost on them though is how much more racist it is that the solution for a woman who uses Medicaid health care is to have an abortion. Lost on the bills' sponsors also seem to be that black babies are aborted at such a high rate, that in some parts of the country, more black babies are aborted than born. While black women make up about 13 percent of women in America, they account for 38 percent of abortions, more than any other demographic.
While Virginia is the 23rd state in the nation to abolish the death penalty, it is the first state in the south. The historic nature has been acknowledged by NBC and other outlets on the local and national level.
Virginia earned the "first in the south" label when it comes to abortion funding as well. Gov. Northam signed legislation repealing a ban of abortion coverage on the state exchange plans. Put more simply, that's going to amount to taxpayer-funded abortions. Pro-abortion groups and outlets lauded that so-called accomplishment, including NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and Ms. Magazine.
Considering Gov. Northam is in favor of post-birth abortion – in other words, infanticide – it sadly makes sense that he'd be in favor of abortion throughout pregnancy leading up to birth. This is also evidenced through his signing legislation last year which repealed abortion regulations meant to protect women and their children from the dangerous, lucrative abortion industry. The legislation repealed requirements that abortion clinics have ambulatory surgical center standards, a 24-hour waiting period, informed consent, and an ultrasound before an abortion. Physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives – meaning non-doctors – can perform abortions.
Democratic Lt. Gov, Justin Fairfax needed to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Virginia Senate to pass the bill. Accusations came out against him, too, these to do with rape. He's still in office and is running for governor.
It's important to emphasize that the legislation in both cases is a repeal. If Virginia is to have such pro-life legislation once more, it will have to go through the process all over again of being authored, introduced, voted on, passed, and signed.
While many southern states are going in the pro-life direction, Virginia isn't one of them. In the most recent Life List released by Americans United for Life, the commonwealth ranked number 32 on the list of most pro-life states. Not surprisingly, it's the southernmost state to rank to rank so poorly.
The abortion issue, especially when contrasted side-by-side with abolishing the death penalty, is key. It's not the only one, though.
As a Virginian voter, I can tell you that it was impossible to escape reminders that Gov. Northam is a doctor (as if that somehow qualifies someone for office). Gov. Northam himself referenced his role as a pediatric neurosurgeon in response to critics.
I have devoted my life to caring for children and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting.— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) January 31, 2019
His medical degree has borne some relevance throughout the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. Despite being the only state to have a doctor as a sitting governor, Virginia at one point ranked 50th in vaccine distribution. It improved enough for Virginia to rank 12th, but it probably should have been in the top half all along, if not better.
Virginia also ranked last in terms of unemployment relief. The headline from Virginia Mercury says it all with the October 30 piece, "Virginia ranks worst in nation for quickly reviewing some unemployment claims."
Sarah Rankin, writing for AP, noted on December 11, 2020, with added emphasis that "claims had previously been on hold - in some cases for many months - because they were awaiting a staff review." Also, with added emphasis: "if the determination process finds a recipient was not due the money, they will have to pay it back."
The governor has also been a foe of religious liberty, particularly during the pandemic. As Leah reported back in December, Gov. Northam encouraged faithful Virginians to not attend houses of worship, as "this year we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building?" He even called on clergy to back him up. "I can’t remind Virginians enough how serious this virus is and as I call on our faith leaders to set the example." he proclaimed.
Conservatives from around the commonwealth have raised the alarm on other issues that matter to them, too. This includes the failure of schools re-opening in a timely manner. InsideNoVa covered the virtual January Arlington GOP meeting where that topic was a focus. Arlington GOP chairman Andrew Loposser during the meeting said that the delays are "destroying the lives of our children" and "just failing them miserably."
Russell Laird, who has an 8-year-old daughter in the Arlington school district, is suing the district. Since the then-current online instruction was "a proven inferior path of education," it violates the Virginia Constitution, he argued during the call. In reporting on the meeting, InsideNoVa mentioned:
School leaders across Northern Virginia closed classrooms last March as the pandemic began its run through the nation. Eventually, the Arlington school system managed to cobble together an online-learning effort from scratch, but most now acknowledge that the remainder of the 2019-20 school year was effectively a wasted effort that provided nothing new to county public-school students.
Arlington school officials last June were first in the region to announce no in-person return to school in September...
The district only recently returned to hybrid in-person learning earlier this month, a year after closing.
Then there's the deep, complicated problem with parole boards. This is a particular campaign issue for Delegate Jason Miyares, who is presently one of four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general of Virginia. Miyares has spoken multiple times about this issue during Arlington GOP meetings and often mentions his previous experience as the assistant commonwealth attorney for Virginia Beach. "Democrats are pushing a criminal first, victims last mindset in Richmond. Now they are breaking the law in order to let out cop killers and murderers. The doors to our schools are closed, but the doors to our prisons are open. We desperately need a check and balance in Richmond against this agenda making Virginians less safe and secure," Miyares told Townhall.
The scandal drew both local and national coverage. What do you know? This had to do with the Wuhan virus as well. AP lays out, in their "EXPLAINER: What's going on with the Virginia Parole Board" in another piece by Rankin, with added emphasis:
In March 2020, amid a push to get eligible inmates out of crowded prisons as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S., the Virginia Parole Board granted release to 95 inmates, just over half the number approved in all of 2019.
Among those 95 were at least 35 people convicted in killings, some of them high-profile, brutal cases. As news of the parole grant decisions made their way around the state, news reports began to bubble up about concerns from prosecutors and victims’ families.
In many cases, they complained they had not been properly notified of the decision or, in the case of victims’ families, given the chance to weigh in as required by law.
From there, it gets as crazy as you'd expect, and then even crazier. As Miyares mentioned in the above statement, "cop killers and murderers" have been released. This included "Vincent Martin, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1979 execution-style killing of a Richmond police officer." The situation involves whistle-blowers, investigations, and more.
Loath I am to admit, despite all of this, it made sense for Northam to stay in office. His approval ratings have managed to remain high, though there's "a clear partisan divide," as The Wason Center for Civil Leadership at Christopher Newport University noted. And Virginians actually think things are going in the right direction.
Regardless, Northam can't run again until at least 2025, though he's already done his damage. And the problem is, this may very well be the direction Virginia will continue to go.