Action Alert

FFRF Statement

An Unholy Alliance: Kathy Byron, the Falwell Empire, and the True Motivations behind HB 462

Infamous Virginia House Bill 462, currently in a Senate committee but expected to pass and be signed into law imminently, forces women to undergo invasive ultrasound imaging prior to an abortion. The bill would essentially require women to have a transvaginal ultrasound — a lengthy procedure that involves a doctor forcing a probe into the vagina — for no valid medical reason. It has been pointed out, correctly, that this is tantamount to rape and torture. Transvaginal ultrasounds are dreaded by patients. This antiabortion bill was introduced to penalize women seeking abortions, and to raise the cost and number of required appointments. The bill has received a lot of press, but not much has been said about its proponents or their motivation. 

Delegate Kathy Byron R-Lynchburg, is the “chief patron” of the bill.

A closer look at the sponsor’s connections may reveal an answer. It turns out that the original sponsor is in bed with the Falwell Evangelical Empire. Byron is from Lynchburg, Va., home of Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church, both founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Byron’s office is less than two miles from this Christian enclave, but her ties to Falwell’s religious empire are more than geographic.

According to her Facebook page, she is a member of Thomas Road Baptist Church. In 2008, Byron was the chief sponsor of a bill honoring what Christopher Hitchens called, “the empty life of this ugly little charlatan.” That bill honored Falwell, the “Chaucerian fraud,” because “Falwell presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of people over the course of 50 years,” was a zealous proponent of Christian education, established the Moral Majority in attempt to unite Christianity and the United States government, was an advocate of a particular sect of Israeli politics “in adherence to the Abrahamic Covenant,” and was a man of faith, prayer, and a devotion to God. (See Hitchens for a critique of Falwell’s “support” of Israel.) Byron also unveiled the “Jerry Falwell Parkway” sign on June 30, 2008, and this year she sponsored HJ 196 officially honoring Jerry Falwell’s cousin Warren. Currently, Byron is a named co-plaintiff alongside Falwell’s Liberty University in a challenge to the universal healthcare law that is before the Supreme Court.

The most terrifying aspect of this unholy alliance is Liberty University’s plans for a “Center for Health and Medical Sciences” which Emily Heady, a dean at Liberty, calls “a great ministry opportunity.” The proposed ministry received a $12 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission in September 2011. Who sat on the Commission at the time? Kathy Byron, of course. One would think that steering a $12 million grant to your church empire would amount to a conflict of interest. The vote came just before her term expired in January 2012, but as Byron said, “It's a project that has been worked on for more than a year now -- shovel ready to go, from a university that's established itself as a leader.”

This university is not a leader in academia, it is a leader in indoctrination that wishes to expand to indoctrinating physicians. According to Jerry Falwell Jr., its chancellor, Liberty University is “the largest Christian university in the world. Liberty was founded in 1971 by my father, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., with a vision to train Champions for Christ as a world class university.” This hereditary kingdom “promotes a lifestyle of Biblical morality” and has a doctrinal statement that will make you cringe.

Byron claims that the transvaginal ultrasound mandate is solely designed to give a patient seeking an abortion all the information: “a woman has a right to have all the information available to her before making that decision.” Hypocritically, Byron is also sponsor of a bill that eliminates a mandate for giving patients "all the information" in another medical set of circumstances. Current Virginia law requires parents to give their children the HPV vaccine, but allows them to opt out “after having reviewed materials describing the link between the human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.” Byron’s bill, HB 1112, removes the “informed consent” requirement, allowing parents to opt out of the vaccine without reading of the elevated risk of cervical cancer. Byron proposed both bills this session, which makes it clear that she is not the least bit genuine in her claim about getting patients all the information.

HB 462 is not about informed consent. It's about the State putting women seeking abortion through a barbaric test to punish and burden them. Like the religious backlash against the birth control mandate, this bill is about forcing others to conform to the biblical worldview of a small cabal of ultra-conservative Christians. Freethinkers don’t believe in prophets, but Hitchens’ obituary about Jerry Falwell seems prescient: “The evil that he did will live after him. This is not just because of the wickedness that he actually preached, but because of the hole that he made in the ‘wall of separation’ that ought to divide religion from politics.”

Take action!

The Senate will have to vote on the bill after it is approved by the Education and Health Committee (probably on Thursday morning at their 8:30 meeting). 

• The list of Committee members can be found here

• A list of Senators and their contact information can be found here

Virginia's Roman Catholic Governor has already promised to sign the bill into law. (Under the Virginia system he can amend laws after final passage by the legislature, but there's no way to amend this bill to make it palatable.) Gov. Bob McDonnell is in contention for a GOP Vice Presidential nomination.

• Contact information for Gov. McDonell is available here

Taking points

(Copy and paste if you like)

Veto HB 462 – a punitive, barbaric, costly and medically unnecessary invasion of privacy of pregnant women, which will immediately be tied up in litigation. This bill declares war on women's rights in the the name of religion. 

Thank you for your help! 

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Action Alert by Andrew Seidel, FFRF constitutional consultant 

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