Del. Cosgrove: Don't Relax Just Yet
Democracy for Virginia has Del. Cosgrove's reply (emphasis mine):
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.
On a final note, your website advocates the use of emailing comments to my office. As for the emails that I have received, I have answered a few and will forward a similar explanation to those who sent them. I always seek to receive emails that express a point of view either in support or in opposition to an issue. The majority of emails I have received from this site, however, have been extremely abusive, condescending, and mean-spirited. That is never the way to communicate with another person and I hope that civil discourse would be your desire as well.
I hope that you will post this explanation on your website and understand the original intent of this bill. If you feel the need to discuss this matter more fully, please do not hesitate to call. Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.
John A. Cosgrove
Let's take a closer look at Del. Cosgrove's answer, shall we:
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.
The stated intent of the bill is to criminalize the delivery of a baby that is dead. Apparently, delivering a stillborn is considered a criminal act. It a priori implicates a woman in a murder and makes her guilty, until proven innocent. Otherwise why would a woman in that situation have to call the authorities to report it? IANAL, but I thought only paroled criminals have to inform authorities of their actions. Not pregnant women. Moreover, under this bill, an unsupervised delivery is no longer acceptable: a competent woman's account of a situation (the birth) can not be trusted, and requires police verification.
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.
Because some women abandon their liveborns [11 such cases in the state of Virginia, in 2003, as per a commenter (no direct link, scroll 1/2 way down)], because the coroner is not able to determine cause of death, and because the police can not charge these women with whatever they'd wish to charge them with, Del. Cosgrove wants to consider any and all pregnant women criminals and institute a tracking system. Nice way to make the authorities' work easier, if you can get away with it.
...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.
So, only women who deliver a stillborn *and* decide to abandon it are to call the police? A lot of activity for a woman in a 12-hour period: go into labor, deliver stillborn, deliver placenta, wait for uterus to contract and the afterpains to subside a bit, diagnose stillbirth, deal with stillborn delivery, decide if stillborn is to be abandoned and/or actually abandon stillborn, call the police, chat with police.
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.
It is magnanimous of Del. Cosgrove to state that he would never inflict emotional torture on a woman who has suffered such a traumatic event as a miscarriage, and that he would never impose criminal sanctions on a woman who has gone through this loss. How unfortunate for the women who have suffered the traumatic event of a stillbirth that Del. Cosgrove's magnanimity does not extend to them. Ah, to be at Del. Cosgrove's mercy!
Just because the Chesapeake Police Department requests* reproductive health legislation does not mean they have an actual understanding of reproductive health. [In case you were amused by my hypothetical Department of Paving the Roads and Collecting Highway Tolls issuing health guidelines, ponder for a moment the reality that a Virginia police department might get to decide your life and health.]
So, just in case Del. Cosgrove and the Chesapeake Police Department get to make life and health decisions for you, here are some medical facts to help you diagnose a stillbirth [you will, however, need to buy the equipment and set-up that basement/garage/mobile morgue and pathology lab on your own]:
In case the set up of that home-made morgue and path lab isn't coming along all that well, here is a minimal examination you can perform to assist you in your determination of a stillbirth:
Protocol for Examination of Stillborns**
Degree of maceration
Entanglement-neck, arms, legs
Hematomas or strictures
Number of vessels
Structural abnormalities-circumvallate or accessory lobes, velamentous insertion
[Any terms you're not familiar with: contact the Chesapeake Police Department, at 757-382-6161, for an explanation.]
Last, but not least, and a nice reminder of "innocent until proven guilty", the reasons*** to determine the cause of fetal death are:
First, the psychological adaptation to a significant loss may be eased by knowledge of a specific etiology [cause of death]. Second, it may help to assuage the guilt that is part of grieving. Most importantly, appropriate diagnosis makes counseling regarding recurrence more accurate, and may allow therapy or some intervention to prevent a similar outcome in the next pregnancy. Identification of inherited syndromes also provides useful information for other family members.
*I have actually called them to confirm that they did, indeed, request the criminalization of stillbirths in their legislative package. The person I spoke to had no idea, but she did promise to page their PR person. I'll update if I hear anything.
Update: Someone did contact me (sorry, didn't get her name; I'm new at this reporting thing). She said she is the on-call person and has never heard of House Bill 1677, nor does she know if the Chesapeake Police Department forwards legislative packages. She did give me the name of the full-time PR person, a Miss Christina Golden. She will be in the office Monday, after 9am.
One comment: the person I spoke with didn't know anything about this story, nor did she understand the word "blog" or "weblog" [Web site was recognized]. If I may be so bold as to offer a suggestion to the Chesapeake Police Department--Blogs. Become familiar with them.
**Williams, 21 ed p 1073
***Williams, 21 ed p 1075