February 03, 2012 - 1:07 pm

BY WESLEY P. HESTER

Despite protest from Democrats, Virginia’s House of Delegates passed two significant measures Friday to defund state-paid abortions and protect the right of private adoption agencies to deny placement based on religious beliefs.

House Bill 62, introduced by Del. Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, would repeal a section of state code authorizing the Board of Health to fund abortions in cases of gross incapacity and deformity for women on medical assistance.

The measure passed 64-35 after a number of passionate pleas from Democrats, who claim the measure would effectively prevent abortions for poor women unable to care for a child with special needs.

“I’m proud to say I’m a pro-life Democrat,” said Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, R-Henrico. “With this bill, the majority party has gone too far.”

Cole said the bill, which Virginia Medicaid law to federal law by barring the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions in circumstances other than rape, incest or threat to the mother’s life, would stop the state from “forcing people who think this is morally wrong to pay for something that is against their conscience.”

House Bill 189, sponsored by Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, allows private agencies to deny adoptions based on the agency or any affiliated organization’s religious views.

After contentious debate Thursday, the bill cleared the House with no discussion on a 71-28. Democrats claim the legislation targets same-sex couples.  

The bill would essentially codify regulations approved last year by Virginia’s Board of Social Services that allow state-licensed private agencies deny services to prospective parents on the basis of age, gender, disability, religion, political belief and family status.