Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Virginia is a little safer for some lovers

John Aravosis at Americablog never fails to stay on top of breaking news.
He has earned my gratitude today for providing a tidy follow-up to the story about the proposed Virginia statute that would criminalize women who did not report broadly-defined fetal deaths within 12 hours.

The author of the bill (HB1677), John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, claims that he only wanted to "add more teeth to laws penalizing women who abandon full-term infants after birth." Don't believe it. If he had truly wanted to toughen anti-abandonment laws, his bill would have contained language to that effect. The bill contains NO words describing babies, infants, or even suggesting abandonment. On the contrary, the bill clearly states:

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Moreover, most who have experience with women who abandon infants will freely tell you that increased penalties will not protect the children. Opportunities for women to leave their babies in safe places while protecting the mothers'anonymity produce much better outcomes for all. Oklahoma, often considered by the sophisticates in Virginia to be a supersized trailer-park, addressed the abandoned infant problem in 2001 (10 O.S. § 7115.1) with a decriminalization statute that both provides protection for the child and respects the mother's privacy.

The news article states that Cosgrove received a large number of e-mailed messages in opposition to his bill.
Information about Cosgrove’s bill was first posted on a Virginia Web site , Maura Keaney, a Falls Church woman and former volunteer for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, uses the site to monitor state government and political issues.

Keaney said Monday her site had received about 70,000 hits in the previous 24 hours, and that information about the bill was picked up by more than 100 blogs, including Web sites for women who have suffered miscarriages. A check of computer search engines Monday found 155 links to discussions about the bill.

Cosgrove, who, before submitting his bill to the Virginia House, obviously did not discuss his bill with anyone who could have lent him a clue, feels abused by the publicity.
“They’ve been fairly responsive, but they never talked to me prior to going on the Web,” he said. “I was absolutely mistreated on this.”

Keaney said she tried to contact Cosgrove but posted her report after waiting three days without a response.

He attributed the volume of mail and the information to blogs, saying, “I’ve never been blogged before.” he said.

He won't be able to say that again.

The introductory paragraph in a linked story reads, "Social conservatives think it’s time Virginia joined the national juggernaut promoting constitutional bans on gay marriage, and Chesapeake Del. John A. Cosgrove wants to lead the parade."

Further down:
Cosgrove, 50, is an electronics engineer and former Chesapeake city councilman who was first elected to the House in 2001. Married with two sons, he is no stranger to hot-button social issues. Last year he successfully championed a new law designating fetal homicide a felony, steamrolling critics who assailed the measure as a back-door attack on abortion rights.

Do you suppose that he introduced that bill as an attempt to add teeth to exisiting laws to protect against child deaths?