RICHMOND, Virginia — Expressing sadness that Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed the Reproductive Health Protection Act, which was passed by the state’s Senate and House of Delegates, Bishops Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington and Barry C. Knestout of Richmond criticized him for the day he chose to sign it into law.

“That he would take this action on Good Friday, one of the most solemn days for Christians, is a particular affront to all who profess the Gospel of life,” the bishop said in a statement released April 11.

The legislation repeals health and safety protections at abortion facilities, allows nonphysicians to perform first-trimester abortions and removes essential informed consent requirements, including the opportunity to view an ultrasound.

“Over the past eight years, abortions have decreased by 42% in Virginia,” the bishops said. “Tragically but undoubtedly, these changes to our state law will reverse that life-saving progress and increase the number of abortions.”

Throughout the legislative session, the Virginia Catholic Conference had lobbied representatives to defeat the legislation.

While noting they were disappointed by the governor’s action April 10, the bishops said they would continue to pursue a “culture of life” in the state.

“This pursuit will continue to save lives because the sacrificial, life-giving love that Christ pours out on us is abundant, fruitful and overflowing. As the Easter season begins, the Lord of life calls us to embrace new life in him,” they said. “Through this new life, let us come together with renewed zeal in prayer, advocacy and witness for life.”

Olszewski is the editor of The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond.