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Because of my menstrual cycle, with my first child, I didn't even know I was pregnant until after week 8.

This law would have made it a crime for me to have miscarried while thinking it was just a late, heavy period!

Are they going to start requiring women to menstruate into a bucket, so they can prove that there were no "products of conception" each month?


Dealing with my (now)ex-mother-in-law while going through mine was horrible enough, and I never was quite able to bring myself to tell most of my family and friends that I'd not only been pregnant but lost my child. I can't even imagine having to call the police to tell THEM.

Monica Smith

Suggested revision of certain phrases.

experiencing a miscarriage==fetus is being aborted

physical pain involved==physical pain racking your abdomen

your miscarriage==the spontaneous abortion

this scenario==criminalization of an act of nature

criminalizing women who suffer miscarriage==criminalizing an act of nature

"fetal death"==spontaneous abortion (do not repeat the loaded verbiage, remember framing)

twelve hours of the miscarriage==twelve hours of the event

fetal deaths (do not use this verbiage)

deaths of all “products of conception” ==spontaneous ejection of products of conception

losses of pregnancy==involuntary termination of pregnancy

so not all pregnancies of early gestational age are reported.==so they obviously can't report it

experience miscarriages at home without a doctor's care==expell fetal tissue spontaneously

Bill text is nonsense
It is trying to legalize definitions (fetal death) for which there is no basis in fact.
It implies an obligation to seek something (medical attendance) that will not be provided. A spontaneous ejection of fetal tissue is not a "delivery" and law-enforcement agencies have no capacity to deal with such matters.

bill is an outrageous attack on the privacy of Virginia women==is an example of gross ignorance and an indictment of our system of education. (eliminate the rest of paragraph, don't try to argue facts. Ditto for the next paragraphs. It serves no purpose to dignify such idiocy with argument)

Commonwealth of Virginia Report of Fetal Death?==Looks like an opportunity to point out what stupidity the earlier statute has spawned)
Perhaps make this into a separate column.


Maura, thanks so much for doing this. I had no idea that Cosgrove had sponsored such a horrible bill so I also appreciate the other links you provide.

I'll have to contact my delegate about this.


This is completely strange and awful. I can't believe it!

Are you sure there aren't any liability law reasons for this legislation? Like maybe "health" related something or other? It seems too blatantly an invasion of privacy to me.


Wow, where to start with pointing out what's wrong with this bill! From a medical point of view, the bill is ridiculous. (I'm not in Virginia, but saw a link on the DFA Blog and came here.)

I'm a family-practice nurse practioner, and provide GYN/OB care for women. "Miscarriages" happen in 30% to 50% of all first trimester (up to week 12 LMP) pregnancies. This is a natural happening and there is absolutely nothing modern medicine can do to stop. The spont Abos are most likely due to genetic problems "not compatible with life" as we say in medical terms.

Medically speaking, there are spontaneous abortions which may be "complete" or "missed". There's also "threatened," but never mind that now. "Missed" or "complete" status often cannot be definitely determined in 24 hrs.

I'm getting weary just thinking everything else that's scientifically wrong about this proposed bill. Not to mention the incredible invasion of privacy.

In framing terms, this proposed bill is "Big Government" telling us what to do with our personal lives. It would also be very expensive. And it's Government getting its hands on your medical record.

How about responding back with "Keep Govt's nose out of our private medical business" or "No big-money intrusive Government policies" or "Keep government paperwork out of our private grief" or similar?

Best of luck with defeating this right-wing scary nutcase.

Diana in northern VA

Maura, thank you for this very well-written piece, although I think Monica's comments are probably quite pertinent and should be incorporated.

Thank you for taking action on this! Years ago when I was on the board of Virginia NARAL we would go to Richmond on lobby day in February to testify against parental notification laws, etc. This latest assault is VERY reminiscent of Nicolas Ceaucescu's Romania, a country that did in fact have "menstruation police" that knocked on women's doors and questioned them. Ugh! This has got to be stopped!


This is completely strange and awful. I can't believe it!

Are you sure there aren't any liability law reasons for this legislation? Like maybe "health" related something or other? It seems too blatantly an invasion of privacy to me.

Maura in VA

Thank you so much for those of you who have commented here. I have also received numerous emails from women who have experienced miscarriages at home and are horrified by the idea that they'd have to call the local police to report this within 12 hours.

If you have a personal story about how this proposed law would have impacted you, please share it here in the comments (if you feel comfortable doing so). It will help very much for those of you who have experienced situations related to this proposed law to share your perspective.


Maura -- Good job. Thanks for posting this. Steam is still coming out of my ears. Glad you're back!



can your next entry tell us why anyone would come up with something so bizarre? I'm presuming some hidden agenda, and a total lack of knowledge of the bodies of women, but, still?


Maura in VA

Hi, bj,

I have been trying to come up with this answer myself, and I'm still waiting to hear back from Del. Cosgrove in response to the email I sent to him asking for his rationale.

I cross-posted this entry to DailyKos.com today, and it has generated a great deal of discussion over there. It turns out that, late this evening, Del. Cosgrove wrote an email to one of the DailyKos commenters about an email she sent him today. Here is what he said was his reason:

"This bill, which was requested by the Chesapeake Police Department, is an attempt to reduce the number of "trashcan" babies that are born and then abandoned in trashcans, toilets, or elsewhere to die from exposure or worse. There are numerous examples of these tragic deaths in Virginia, many in Northern Virginia and also in Hampton Roads. Once the body of a child is found, if the death of that child is undetermined by a coroner, the person abandoning that child can only be charged with "the improper disposal of a human body".

That is the intent of the bill."

I would like to believe this is true, but the fact is the text of the bill has NOTHING to do with abandonment of infants, dead or otherwise. The code of Virginia specifically defines "fetal death" as the death of "products of conception regardless of duration of pregnancy"...and that means it can and would apply to all miscarriages that women experience at home.

In addition, there are already laws on the books in Virginia that address abandonment of infants. So this rationale doesn't fly with me, but I'm going to make another attempt to contact Del. Cosgrove directly, pointing out the problems with the bill, and seeing what he says. If he truly is concerned with infant abandonment, he'd withdraw this bill and write another one that would not criminalize a woman who suffers a miscarriage alone.

Maura in VA

Click my name to read the related discussion on DailyKos if you're interested.


I just sent this to Delegate Cosgrove:

I am an Australian mother of a two year old boy. I have read of the above bill and would like to point out to you that this is a grossly unfair, cruel and horrid proposal. Last November I lost a very much wanted and planned baby at 7 weeks. There is no way I could possibly have gotten myself together enough to report it to the authorities, let along give the baby's weight in grams. A miscarried baby at 7 weeks can't be weighed, unless you get a seive out and scooped blood from a toilet. At 7 weeks a miscarried baby looks like blood clots.

I suggest you read the attached article. http://democracyforvirginia.typepad.com/democracy_for_virginia/2005/01/legislative_sen.html

The campaign against HB 1677 is spreading and will grow. I am about to post the attached article on my mother's website which has 40,000 active members. I will also supply your email address. I'm sure you'll be hearing from many women. I understand that you may simply be interested from a statistic/maternal care point of view, but I suspect it is more of a Right to Life campaign. Which is fine - I'm pro life mysef. But you are really, really going the wrong way about it.

Yours sincerely,

j swift

Welcome one and all to the Theocratic Republic of the United States courtesy of the Bush Mandate.


I was born and raised in Virginia, although I don't live there now. I had a miscarriage 16 years ago and still consider it one of the worst experiences of my life.

This makes no sense to me -- what does an early miscarriage have to do with an abandoned fetus/baby? My miscarriage happened at 7 weeks, but I bled for a solid three weeks before it was over. It was too early for a heartbeat so there was no way to detect the time of termination. How do they determine 12 hours after the miscarriage occurs? How do they determine the weight of three weeks of bleeding and clots? The whole deal went down the toilet and nobody wanted to fish it out.

I've also had numerous late, heavy periods while trying to conceive, which may or may not have been early miscarriages/chemical pregnancies. How do you report those?

I feel sorry for the police officers that have to take these reports. My own husband, who is a health care professional, was squicked out by the whole ordeal.



I am spreading the word in Illinois. Hey, at the very least we can threaten to financially support his opponent in the next election. Which is what I have done.


I looked this bill up and this is what I got...

Bill Status of HB1677 93rd General Assembly


Full Text Votes View All Actions Printer-Friendly Version

Short Description: ELECTIONS-TECH

House Sponsors
Rep. Tom Cross

Senate Sponsors
(Sen. Dale A. Righter )

Maura in VA

Hi, Debbie,

Perhaps that is for a prior General Assembly session? You can look up all bills for the 2005 session here:


HB1677 during this session is definitely about fetal death reporting.

Maura in VA

Hi, Debbie,

Perhaps that is for a prior General Assembly session? You can look up all bills for the 2005 session here:


HB1677 during this session is definitely about fetal death reporting.


To even suggest that this has anything to do with abandoned babies is just ludicrous, when the legislation specifically states "regardless of gestational age".

Can you imagine the conversation with the cop?

"um, yes, hello, I think I might be having a miscarriage...well, my period's two days late, and I had a positive test yesterday, but now I've started bleeding...well, the doctor says to rest, that I can have a blood test next week to see what's happenned...well, I need to call you NOW, just in case, you see...no, I can't wait until we're sure if it's over, or if it's OK - I don't want to go to jail". And if it turned out OK, would you get charged with filing a false report?

And what happens with a threatened miscarriage - do you have to ring the cops every twelve hours to keep them updated? "yes, more clots...no, next beta isn't until Wednesday...no, too early for a scan...OK, speak to you tonight, Joe"

It's just STUPID, and that's before you get to the cruelty and invasion of privacy.


What next? Will we have to report EVERY month a "POTENTIAL fetal death" when we menstruate???

I came of age in Virginia - Thank god my miscarriage was in Wisconsin.
During my second pregnancy, we found out my husband has a genetic anomaly that will cause a miscarriage 3 in 6 times, a normal child 1 in 6, a carrier of the same anomaly 1 in 6, and a heartrendingly disabled, barely alive infant in agonizing pain, that would never leave the hospital and would die in less than a year.
So, a 50% chance of miscarriage - above and beyond the NORMAL chances of miscarriage. That is a hell of a lot of paperwork.
Our daughter is a carrier and will face the same odds should she choose to attempt pregnancy. I will advise her never to even visit Virginia if she suspects she might be pregnant.

Which raises another point. What if a woman is a visitor to this tourist-loving state? Will they need to post large bill boards at every highway entrance and airport advising women of the law???


While I am certainly upset about this bill I am also fairly shocked that (according to your posting) in Virginia my DOCTOR is required by law to report my name, social security number and other extremely personal data if I go to him or her for care during or after a miscarriage. Not the father's name, however, huh?

If I read the above posting correctly HB 1677 is simply an extension of an already gross violation of the privacy of the women of Virginia. Fighting this is a start, but I'd also be interested in an effort to forbid the state from collecting personal identifying information from all women who miscarry, such as their names and Social Security numbers. The implications are chilling. Do you have information on the law that requires the doctor to supply the information to the health authorities?


What I think that this is is a way to expose the women who use RU 486 to terminate a pregnancy.



Here's my letter. I sent it to Cosgrove, plus the Senator/Delegate I currently have as well as the ones for the area I lived in for 10 yrs.

Delegate Cosgrove,
I am a long time Virginia resident. I do not live in Chesapeake, but I lived near there for 10 years in XXX. I've now been in Northern Virginia for 7 years. Around for a while now, I have a very good understanding about the duality of opinions and people in Virginia, so do not discount me as a true Virginian even though I live in the Metro DC area.

I am afraid. What you are proposing in HB1677 is not only wrong, it is morally unconscionable. I question your motivation for invading a grieving woman's privacy.

If your stated purpose is reducing the number of abandoned infants, could you tell me how does this relates to miscarriages? Have you seen a statistic relating abandonment and miscarriage? Do you equate miscarriage somehow to being maternal abandonment?

Please look at this by the numbers.

How many infants are abandoned in VA each year? I can't imagine there are a lot. I've lived in Virginia for a long time and it has not been a pervasive theme.

How many social services and/or law enforcement dollars go toward it? Again, I don't think the rate stretches either budget.

How many miscarriages occur annually in Virginia? This is a significant number, estimates say upwards of 50% of all pregnancies. I guess that would be twice the current birthrate of Virginia, with only something like 5% of those happening after the first trimester, with those falling under pre-existing laws. That leaves 95% of Virginia's miscarriages subject to your new bill.

How much would interviewing each miscarrying woman, getting her private medical history, and handling her products of conception cost? How much would it cost to research, hunt down, and nab the non-reporters? How would you treat serial miscarriers? Would they be eligible for repeat offender status? How would divulging and desseminating this information affect her insurance and employment possibilities? You have to see where I'm going. This balloons into the ridiculous. This would be an enforcement nightmare. The costs the Commonwealth's budget, manpower, and citizen's autonomy would be astronomical.

I could not support my tax dollars going toward this effort.

Please reconsider.

Most sincerely,

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