A Blog Flog for Del. Cosgrove
Since I didn't focus too much on the role the Internet played in the withdrawal of HB 1677, here's an editorial from the Virginian-Pilot (reg. required) to make up for that:
A blog flog for Del. Cosgrove
© January 13, 2005
Last updated: 7:10 PM
What happens in Vegas, a popular TV ad goes, stays in Vegas.
Not so Virginia. Just ask John Cosgrove.
The Chesapeake delegate found this out the hard way last weekend after he received more than 500 irate e-mails from across the country. Cosgrove had introduced a misguided bill that would have required police to be informed within 12 hours when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance.
Cosgrove says it was an attempt to penalize mothers who abandoned babies, even though that’s already a serious crime for which at least one mother was jailed here in 2003.
But that’s not how the bill was interpreted. Most people saw it as a heartless law obliging a distraught woman who miscarries to make an incident report to the police and answer inappropriate questions. (Aren’t conservatives, like Cosgrove, supposed to believe in limiting government intrusion into people’s lives?) Regardless, it was a tough introduction for the Republican to the brave new world of Internet “blogs.” Short for “Web logs,” blogs are personal Web sites and discussion boards.
And in short order, a slew of them mercilessly pounded him. One Web site, the Virginia-based democracyforvirginia.typepad.com, that posted information about Cosgrove’s legislation, received nearly 70,000 hits in 24 hours. More than 100 others picked up and posted the information, including Web sites for women who’ve endured miscarriages.
After spending the weekend responding to angry screeds from Texas and California, Cosgrove decided on Monday to retreat, and pulled the bill.
There is a lesson here about the lightning speed with which information, rumors and angry epistles can travel in the computer age. Introduce dubious legislation in Virginia and, with the click of a mouse, someone in North Dakota can know — and sound off about — its every detail.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, what happens in Richmond no longer stays there.
But Cosgrove’s actions also raise pertinent questions. If the intent of his bill was, as he claims, to penalize mothers who dump babies, why didn’t he simply copy language from a similar measure he introduced two years ago? Unless Cosgrove intended to broaden its scope, why make such a bill so intentionally vague?
There are already laws on the books against child abandonment and neglect in the commonwealth. The real shame is that it took an avalanche of outrage from Texas and California, not Virginia, to change Cosgrove’s mind.
[I added the links to the original article.]
(via Ms. X)