Saturday, January 08, 2005

Del. Cosgrove: Don't Relax Just Yet

Democracy for Virginia has Del. Cosgrove's reply (emphasis mine):

Dear Maura:

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.

Sincerely,

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]:

  • Live birth = Whenever the infant at or sometimes after birth breaths spontaneously, or shows any other sign of life such as a heartbeat, or definite spontaneous movement of voluntary muscles, it is recorded as a live birth. Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions, and respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

  • Stillbirth (fetal death) = No sign of life present at or after birth.

  • Almost 80% of all stillbirths occur before term, and more than half are before 28 weeks.

  • Cause of fetal death: 1) Fetal (25-40%) [chromosomal abnormalities, infections, etc.]; 2) Placental (25-35%) [abruptio, cord accidents, etc.]; 3) Maternal (5-10%) [diabetes, rupture of the uterus, postterm pregnancy, etc.]; 4) Unexplained (25%-35%).

    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**

    Infant Description:
    Malformations
    Skin staining
    Degree of maceration
    Color-pale, plethoric

    Umbilical cord:
    Prolapsed
    Entanglement-neck, arms, legs
    Hematomas or strictures
    Number of vessels
    Length

    Amniotic Fluid:
    Color-meconium, blood
    Consistency
    Volume

    Placenta:
    Weight staining
    Adherent clots
    Structural abnormalities-circumvallate or accessory lobes, velamentous insertion
    Edema-hydropic changes

    Membranes:
    Stained
    Thickening

    [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

  • 11 Comments:

    At 11:00 PM, Blogger Anne said...

    Are you going to contact him with the technical medical information??

     
    At 12:02 AM, Blogger ema said...

    Anne,

    If you mean the Delegate, not before I talk to the police people to 1) confirm they made the request, and 2) to have them explain to me the connection bet. reporting stillbirths and full term, liveborns killed by exposure to elements [maybe there's a legal thing I'm missing].

    Also, I find it hard to believe he does not already have the medical info I posted. It's so basic he would've had to review it when drafting the bill.

     
    At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Ema, this is Maura in VA from DFV. This response is FANTASTIC. I was drafting such a point-by-point response, and I would love to share yours on DFV. Mind if I excerpt with link and credit?

    BTW, your research in contacting the Chesapeake police is so valuable - thank you for partnering with me and other concerned women to get the word out about this. It helps so much to have others researching along with me.

    Here's an item of great interest. In 2003, Delegate Cosgrove introduced this bill:

    "Duty to report childbirth"
    http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?031+sum+HB1421

    Given that he had previously crafted a bill that narrowly defined the reporting requirements to include just pregnancies past 24 weeks' gestation, why would he go back and now introduce a much wider-ranging fetal death reporting bill (with Virginia's expansive definition of "fetal death" presumably applying, although he did not repeat this language in the bill itself?)

     
    At 2:16 AM, Blogger Spit said...

    Thank you for posting this

     
    At 5:46 AM, Blogger ema said...

    Maura,

    Thank you, and use whatever you need. I'll try to look at the 2003 bill tomorrow.

     
    At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    After reviewing Cosgrove's subsequent replies to outraged citizens, I can only conclude he's a lying bastard. A cursory review of VA law reveals numerous sections dealing with child abandonment, any of which could be easily amended to accommodate the deaths of full term babies abandoned shortly after birth.

     
    At 5:51 PM, Blogger Dr. Charles said...

    WOW - i actually wandered over here to tell you about the story, and i find that you've fully examined it already... thought you would be interested. I don't think any version of this bill is tolerable. it will do much more harm than good.
    good job discussing.

     
    At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    If the legislation is really about babies born alive and them abandoned and allowed to die, why is the expression "fetal death" used? That seems to imply death prior to birth, ie stillbirth or miscarriage. Otherwise shouldn't it be "infant death"?

     
    At 6:33 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

    Back in September when I posted about a play I saw, I understood its relation to current events, but never thought, in 2005, we would be so close to reinacting events that took place in 1768. The main character of the play - which is based on a real woman and real events from NH - Ruth Blay, gave birth to a stillborn and was put on trial for murder. Since they could not prove the baby was born alive, they assumed she killed it. She was executed on December 31, 1768. She was the last woman in NH to be executed for this kind of thing. Del. Cosgrove's bill was truly a step back in time, an attempt to punish women..just because.

     
    At 4:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It's not just 'because.' It's because they are creating legal precedants to build additional restrictive laws against women.

    Sisters, we are not headed just back to the kitchen, but the 1600's, witchunts and a Second Inquisition. And don't forget how Hitler treated women. If we don't fight now, it will be too late.

    The first thing every police state does is take control of reproduction--all those fetuses are property of the state--future cannon fodder. Every sperm is sacred. Women are nothing but breeding stock.

    As the economy tanks, women will be blamed for 'taking men's jobs' and shoved out of their jobs. Any single woman, or someone a bit odd will be suspect. Expect to see curfews, and limits on travel.

    Watch some of the films about how women are treated in Iran. It's an eye-opener.

     
    At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Refer to Diabetes for
    useful information

     

    Post a Comment

    Links to this post:

    Create a Link

    << Home