Have a Miscarriage, Go to Jail
HB1677, or the “Report of Fetal Death by mother, penalty” bill is simple. If you are a woman and you have a miscarriage--not an abortion--away from a medical center where such things are automatically reported, this new bill would require you to report the miscarriage to the police department. If you don't, you'll face up to a year in prison -- with all of the potential dangers of rape, HIV, and beatings -- plus a hefty $2,500 and a job killing jail record. The full story at Democracy for Virgina. This is a very dangerous bill for women everywhere.
An email campaign launched to deter Cosgrove's anti-women bill elicted this response:
"I am Delegate Cosgrove and I wish to respond to your website and the allegations that have been made by those who have emailed and called my office. The intent of House Bill 1677 is to require the notification of authorities of a delivery of a baby that is dead and the mother has not been attended by a medical professional. This bill was requested by the Chesapeake Police Department in its legislative package due to instances of full term babies who were abandoned shortly after birth. These poor children died horrible deaths. If a coroner could not determine if the child was born alive, the person responsible for abandoning the child could only be charged with is the improper disposal of a human body.
The requirement for the twelve hour notification timeframe comes from the method that a coroner would use to determine if the child had been born alive or dead. After twelve hours, it becomes next to impossible to determine if the child was alive due to decomposition gasses that build up in the body.
My bill in no way intends that a woman who suffers a miscarriage should be charged for not notifying authorities. The bill in no way mentions miscarriages, only deliveries. However, after discussing the bill again with our legislative services lawyers, I have decided to include language that will define the bill to apply only to those babies that are claimed to have been stillborn and that are abandoned as stated above.
I would never inflict the type of emotional torture on a woman who has suffered such a traumatic event as a miscarriage by making her notify authorities of her loss. I would also never impose criminal sanctions on a woman who has gone through this loss. And I am confident that the General Assembly of Virginia would also not pass such a terrible imposition on a woman. My mother experienced several miscarriages and I have other friends who have been devastated by losing their children through miscarriages."1
While this constitutes some back-away from the bill, but not enough to completely protect women who suffer miscarriages, it is still a dangerous precedent. Women -- Virginia women in particular -- should email Cosgrove and tell him they are watching, and then monitor other state's legislatures as it is virtually guaranteed that if this bill is successful in Virginia, it will pop up elsewhere. If Conservatives realize that they cannot sneak this past women, they think twice about proliferating it.