The Virginia abortion bill failed, but the time for indifference is over

There are moments of clarity in all of our lives, and hopefully you experience such a thing more than just once. On Wednesday afternoon, driving to my home in Raleigh, North Carolina I was listening to a recap of the week's news on the radio. What I heard was that a lawmaker in Virginia had brought forward a bill to expand abortion access and remove restrictions on the procedure currently in place in the state. The reporter said "you'd expect this sort of legislation in New York or California, but it seems out of character for a state like Virginia."

My fingers tightened around the steering wheel.

Audio played of Kathy Tran, a delegate from Fairfax County, explaining the substance of the Repeal Act to her colleagues on the floor. I don't know what about this moment or this bill drew out such a strong reaction from me. After all, the state of New York just passed a very similar measure only a week ago and I went on with my day.

RELATED: The slippery slope of abortion just fell off a cliff

My vision blurred and stomach tightened. Something was wrong and could feel the most subtle shockwaves going up my arms to my neck. Discomfort. Rapid breathing.

I got through the next stop light and pulled over the car. Turned it off and just sat there for a few minutes, focused on my breath. I have never experienced such a thing. It was clarity. The realization of a lie.

If you're reading this, you likely know the backstory. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently joined WTOP radio in Washington D.C. and was asked about the abortion bill dubbed the Repeal Act, which had been causing a stir in the state for the better part of a week. One of his answers was:

If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. 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.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate Kathy Tran of Fairfax County, would allow women to get abortions up until the point of birth — if their physical or mental health are considered at risk. To put a fine point on it, Tran was questioned about her bill earlier this week and expressed that it offered "no limits" on when the abortion could be carried out, including when the the mother is dilating and about to give birth. It reduces the number of doctors required to approve termination from three to one, and it lowers the bar significantly for the severity of the health risk. Now we are talking about the impairment of mental health in addition to the mother's physical health. What does that even mean?

Well, vaguery is the point. Something I didn't see coming in the abortion debate, but pro-lifers probably saw a million miles back, was that this was always headed toward the realm of the subjective. The first time I had the slightest thought that the case for abortion might expand to having virtually no boundaries, was when the discourse on college campuses began to blend mental and physical harm into a single thing. It's strange, but an op-ed in the New York Times in 2017 titled When Is Speech Violence? was actually my first hint. The piece described the science behind stress, and how challenges to the nervous system in the form of hurtful or abusive speech can cause long-lasting physical harm. I remember thinking to myself about the talking point "in cases of physical harm to the mother…" and then moved on with my day.

On the question of abortion, I've failed the test each time that I can think of, for a litany of reasons that boil down to cowardice.

I believe in God. I believe God tests us daily in our lives. On the question of abortion, I've failed the test each time that I can think of, for a litany of reasons that boil down to cowardice. My wife and I are the proud parents of an 8-year old girl. She's the light of our lives and brilliant — and I will likely never forgive myself for how I reacted when my college girlfriend, now wife, came forward as pregnant. I was a 20 year old "pro-life", Republican, fair-weather Christian and she was my liberal girlfriend who didn't see the world my way on just about anything. My thought process then was, obviously she will "handle it" and this will go away. So with my head down, I asked her if that was her plan, and it most definitely was not. The idea quite offended her, and she left.

I failed the biggest test of my young life. I like to think I made it right by subsequently stepping up and forming the family I now have and cherish. It took a lot of work on both our parts. But after that, my view on abortion changed to match my previous failure. I decided I was pro-choice, because how I could I champion the right to life when I turned away from it in my moment of being tested? This new view shielded me from another layer of shame, that of hypocrisy. Gradually, other pressing issues led me away from being conservative to being a libertarian, an identification I still hold and believe to be correct. Abortion is still very much in debate in libertarian circles and has been for quite some time. Whereas it is settled for conservatives and progressives, I found comfort in the hand-wringing and uncertainty of libertarians on the question.

In order to detach myself from the outcome of America's abortion debate, I had to assume three things. First, that there was sincerity in the argument that the survival of the mother was of utmost concern to the pro-choice crowd. Second, that the valid debate over when life begins wouldn't be allowed by courts to extend past the time of birth. Third, that while late-term abortions are generally rare and unpopular, the legality of the practice was not going to extend beyond the most progressive corners of America.

The quick rise and fall of the Repeal Act in Virginia unravels all these things I taught myself to believe about the abortion debate. That it had boundaries, that it was about people trying to defend life in exceptional circumstances — both on the side of advocacy for the unborn and the women carrying them. It's simply not true, and I see that now. The radicalized left in 2019 supported by a new wave of true believers who consider physical and mental harm to be entirely subjective concepts, is not going to stop expanding the religion of "choice". Governor Northam made it clear in his admission that the fates of children could be decided on after the fact of their birth. This wasn't a slip-up or miscommunication, it was the mask slipping on an ideology of death that has been mainstreamed. I just didn't have the courage and clarity to confront it.

You could say I may have just had a panic attack. I would say it was given to me — and thank God for it.

Sitting on the side road with the keys in the ignition, I wondered if this is what being convicted by God feels like. I've prayed for countless years for the spirit to move me in the way it moves some members of my family when all I've ever felt in my faith is silence.

You could say I may have just had a panic attack. I would say it was given to me — and thank God for it. Kathy Tran and Ralph Northam revealed that the sidelines are no longer where I belong. My hope for moderation and wisdom from public officials has not stopped the worst ideas on abortion from being realized and spread. Eventually, more state legislatures will be faced with similar bills that blur the lines of what defines harm. David French wrote in the National Review that the onset of anxiety, depression, fear of postpartum will soon be tried as reasons for young life to be terminated — and he is right.

I'm joining the movement to defend the sanctity of life. If you've been on the sidelines too, I hope you'll join me.

Stephen Kent (@Stephen_Kent89) is a friend of the show and host of Beltway Banthas, a Star Wars & politics podcast in D.C.

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

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To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

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Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.