Saturday, January 08, 2005

Forget the Xanax---Pass the Morphine Drip

Throughout the land, jackals are moving in to finish off the struggling remnants of our freedoms as they lay bleeding life, gutted by Republican fanaticism. Sometimes they get to the body, and sometimes the body fights back.

First among jackals, Virginia Delegate John Cosgrove and his proposed House Bill 1677, which would require the filing of a "fetal death report" for every medically-attended fetal death occuring in the state. You can see where this is headed: it would create an equivalence between the death of a fetus and that of a fully-formed, viable human being, one more inroad toward the goal of making fetuses legal persons and abortion, murder. But this in itself is not the most amazing thing about this bill, which goes on to state:

"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. "
There was no cutoff of gestational age for this absurd and heartless law, so it would apply to a fertilized blastocyst a few days old as well as to a nearly-to-term baby. It's entirely likely, given the way the human body works, that every woman on the planet has had a miscarriage at one time or another and not known it, literally flushing it down the toilet with her menstrual flow. Imagine trying to report a period that arrived a few days late.

Furthermore, the officer taking the report has a raft of pointless and prying questions s/he is required to grill the woman with, many of which would be unanswerable if the miscarriage occurred much before 16 weeks, and certainly before 12 weeks. As the bearer of these bad tidings, Democracy for Virginia relates that the punishment of a Class 1 misdemeanor in that state can result in a 12 month jail term and $2500 fine. Here are some other violations of the law at that level which Cosgrove had no problem seeing as equivalent:

  • " A person 18 years of age or older engaging in consensual intercourse with a child 15 or older not his spouse, child or grandchild (more commonly known as "statutory rape")
  • burning or destroying a building or structure if the property therein is valued at less than $200 (arson)
  • a bomb threat made by someone younger than 15
  • carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • possession or distribution of fraudulent drivers’ licenses or official identification
  • stalking
  • threatening any public school employee while on a school bus, on school property, or at a school-sponsored activity
  • purchasing or providing alcohol to minors
"So, Delegate Cosgrove is basically saying that failing to violate your own privacy within 12 hours of a miscarriage is the criminal equivalent of statutory rape, arson, stalking, and other serious crimes. "
DFV ended by asking those who live in VA to write Cosgrove and their own delegates and senators about it, and to participate in a number of other activities to raise awareness.

Evidently the word spread pretty fast, and by this a.m. Cosgrove did a quick backtrack on the "fetal deaths" covered by the bill. He wrote to DFV:
"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."
Never thought to talk to the lawyers first, eh? Not that it might have mattered, if they were anything like Alberto.

This is how bad law is made in this country. Political expediency and shallow thinking, combined with blindered fanaticism, make the perfect recipe for lousy law drafted by legislators rushing to to nail down the coffin on the Bill of Rights. This is how we got the Patriot Act, and Guantanamo, and Iraq.

And if you don't think it can happen again, just wait. There's always a chance no one will notice.

Thanks to The Project for The Old American Century for the original tip.


Flamingo Jones said...

It was pretty entertaining to see Cosgrove squirm once this bill started getting the spotlight shone on it.

Riggsveda said...

It would be more entertaining to see him pack his bags after the next election.