As of a minute ago, this site has received over 40,000 hits in the past 24 hours, and this story has spread to over 100 blogs and many more hundreds of message boards and email lists. The story's spread from here and DailyKos to countless infertility/miscarriage blogs, to Fark.com, to Atrios and Air America Radio and beyond. I have only begun to scratch the surface of reading the discussions that this has spawned in the blogosphere, but I'm grateful for the response and thankful for the attention that this legislation has been given. Some thoughts:
A few people have written, essentially, "Why make such a big deal out of this? This bill is SO bad it will surely die in committee, or get voted down, or get vetoed." Sure, bad bills get introduced in every legislature. But some of them become law, and sometimes they become law because ordinary citizens weren't aware of them before they became law.
One commenter wrote, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
Unfortunately, this recent vigilance has kept me awake for far more than 24 hours straight, and I need to drive my parents to a family function many hours away tomorrow, so I'm not going to be able to do justice to this update right now. I didn't want to wait to post this update, though, because it is so important.
I am delighted to report that Delegate Cosgrove has contacted me directly about HB1677. Delegate Cosgrove has been inundated with calls and emails today in response to the viral spread of this story via the internet, and he is doing his best to respond to them.
He has asked me to share his email with you here, and I do so with thanks to him for his time and thought in composing it (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
I have sent him an initial reply thanking him for his thoughtful response, and I plan to spend some time tomorrow night or Sunday in composing a more substantive post which addresses the information he provides here and asks him questions about the revisions he plans.
For now, Delegate Cosgrove, if you're reading, the most important thing I want to say is thank you for listening to the concerns of so many people, even those who expressed their concern angrily or even abusively. I am heartened to hear that you plan narrow the scope of HB1677 to more closely fit your stated intent.
If you'd like to continue this dialogue with Delegate Cosgrove, please consider sharing your questions or concerns in comments. This issue has brought together so many people in a positive way today - Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, pro-choice, and pro-life commenters found much common ground in objection to the original format of the bill. I think that's a Good Thing, as is Delegate Cosgrove's outreach to us here.
If you all could continue the eternal vigilance while I sleep now, I'd appreciate it. :-)