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FF Sparks (Casual)

[Politics] Virginia Residents Take Note

I know a few others have already mentioned this, but Mindy Klasky sent a letter to folks, and has given us permission to repost it anywhere that it might make a difference.

As many of you know, I am not a political creature. I do not spend a lot of my time tracking legislation or otherwise following the events in Richmond. Nevertheless, a bill has been brought before the Virginia House of Delegates which endangers the privacy rights of every woman in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia House Bill 1677 requires a woman to report any miscarriage to local law enforcement within twelve hours of experiencing that unfortunate event. The bill does not distinguish between early and late miscarriages. Failure to report is a class one misdemeanor (the same category of crime as statutory rape, arson, and stalking), with penalties of up to one year in prison and a fine of $2500. (Please note that the bill does not address *abortion*; it merely addresses miscarriage.)

You can read more about the bill here:

http://democracyforvirginia.typepad.com/democracy_for_virginia/2005/01/legislative_sen.html

If you live in Virginia, and if you are as appalled as I am, I urge you to respond today, contacting Delegate Cosgrove, your local delegates, and all Virginia residents who should oppose such a stunning invasion of our privacy.

Mindy

Comments

For what it's worth, if you read more carefully, this is an ammendment to an existing statute.

The existing statue requires certificates of death for fetal deaths, and it does include abortion. It requires doctors, medical examiners and funeral directors to file one.

The ammendment would make it illegal for a woman to have a still birth without medical attention and fail to report it to the authorities (implying they will not be properly burying the fetus).

Early stage miscarriages do not result in a 'dead fetus', latter stage miscarriages would really require medical attention, however if a woman chose not to seek medical attention they would still need to dispose of the poor baby, is it really such an attrocity to ensure that they will?
The impression most people have of this -- and that I did as well -- is that the existing law doesn't really well-define this as 'late term' or anything like that. I suppose 'dead fetus' could be taken that way, since the original law they are amending mentions a funeral home having a requirement to report. It is still, however, not all that clear; given political twists we've seen over the past few years, it's extremely easy to imagine this being argued in court someday that even in early-stage pregnancy, the unborn child counts as a 'fetus' and thus someone should be in trouble for not reporting a miscarriage.

Even the laws with good intent can backfire. Witness a law passed here in Washington state ages ago, which prevents a divorce from being granted while the woman is pregnant; it was intended to prevent men from divorcing their pregnant wife and leaving them with no support at all. Great intent... but now we have a situation where an abused wife wants to divorce her jailed husband, and the divorce is not granted because this law prohibits it as she's pregnant.

That said, I don't live in Virginia; I'm just passing the letter on.
"[...] the unborn child counts as a 'fetus' [...]"

I think you must mean the inverse, since any unborn/unhatched vertebrate is a fetus.
No, I meant it precisely the way I said it.

Kath argued that this law is fairly innocuous and harmless because it only applies to 'fetal death' and explains that legally, they define 'fetal death' as excluding early stage miscarriage.

My point is that they could readily choose to define 'fetal death' as any miscarriage, later down the road.

Isn't playing with legal definitions, as opposed to real definitions, fun? :/

Nkay.

This is just more evidence that I'd make a lousy polemicist.
This law does not ensure that they will. It merely criminalizes those who do not.

Yes, that's true, my bad on miswording.
Hrm. Actually, it is as bad as it sounds.

It would seem in Virginia, they've already defined fetal death as being any pregnancy that doesn't result in life birth, at any gestational age:

When fetal death reporting is required:
Under the definition set forth above, a fetal death certificate must be filed for every product of
conception, irrespective of the period of gestation, which does not result in a live birth. (Section 32.1-264
Code of Virginia)

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/misc/itop97.pdf

Interestingly enough, the same holds in 11 other states and territories, most of the rest require it at 20 weeks or greater.
PZ Meyers puts it well: "Failure to carry a fetus to term, for whatever reason, is a crime, and must be reported to the appropriate authorities within 12 hours, or you can be sent to jail for up to a year or fined $2500. You may be crying your eyes out at an unwanted miscarriage, but you will pick your butt up and turn yourself in to the police immediately. You are a bad person."

Relying upon the law not to prosecute out of mercy is a bad idea. *shrug* The fact remains that laws such as these do more often than not get applied in the most ridiculous ways possible, especially when it's an election year or someone wants to 'make a point'.

Don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be the woman who gets made an example of. Heck, there are times when you do not /realize/ that you've had a miscarriage until more than 12 hours have passed; and such laws usually have or gain riders which require doctors to notify legal enforcement if/when they find out. So if you weren't feeling well yesterday and don't get to the doctor til tomorrow and that's when you find out, congratulations, you broke the law - and the doctor is legally bound to report it.

There are other aspects of this which irk me, but it's just not something I'm going to go on about.