Fetal deaths; when occurs without medical attendance, mother, etc., must report within 24 hours. (SB962)

Introduced By

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg)

Progress

Introduced
Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law

Description

Fetal deaths; report when unattended; penalty. Requires that when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother at or after the delivery or abortion, the mother or someone acting on her behalf, within 24 hours, report the fetal death, location of the remains, and identity of the mother to the local or state police or sheriff's department of the city or county where the fetal death occurred. The bill also specifies that no one shall remove, destroy, or otherwise dispose of any remains without the express authorization of law-enforcement officials or the medical examiner, and that a violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Amends § 32.1-264, of the Code of Virginia. Read the Bill »

Outcome

Bill Has Failed

History

  • 01/12/2009 Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/14/09 098385288
  • 01/12/2009 Referred to Committee on Education and Health
  • 01/15/2009 Assigned Education sub: Health Care
  • 01/19/2009 Impact statement from DPB (SB962)
  • 01/29/2009 Stricken at request of patron in Education and Health (14-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)

Comments

Rebecca Reed writes:

A miscarriage is a sad time for women and their families. I cannot imagine putting anyone through this procedure, contacting police, reliving the tragedy. One of the most inane bills I have seen.
This bill should b withdrawn immediately. What does the Senator hope to accomplish? How does this help women or families.?

Kandy Hilliard writes:

Of course this is the sort of bill that would be introduced by a man, one who has obviously not had a wife who experienced the sadness and loss that comes when a pregnancy ends unexpectedly. Shame on this senator for trying to insinuate himself in the middle of a families' time of crisis and trying to bring "Big Brother" into a place best occupied by spouse, doctor, and family.

At a time when the Commonwealth is struggling with so many big issues, why is this senator sticking his nose in areas best left to women and their families? Butt out!

Jackie Hontz writes:

This is tantamount to making men report any incidences of erectile dysfunction. I have never heard of anything so invasive, insensitive and dismissive of a woman's basic human rights. Senator Obenshain, shame on you.

Jennifer writes:

This is obviously written by someone biologically incapable of miscarrying. Is the senator aware that many early miscarriages occur in the toilet? What exactly does he expect law enforcement officials to verify? Do you have no actual crime in VA that might be a better use of state law enforcement funds?

Amelia Carter writes:

Shame on you, Senator Obenshain. Shame on you. You clearly have never experienced the overwhelming heartbreak of a miscarriage. Asking a woman to relive that, especially by telling people she does not know, is disgusting and cruel. This bill should be withdrawn immediately and Senator Obenshain should apologize for introducing this invasive and insensitive piece of legislature.

Donna Sprague writes:

File this one either under "too much time on his hands" or "religious fanatic nut case", not to mention "another pitiful attempt to further demean women".
This makes no sense and before the Senator is able to embarass himself any further with his ignorance and sadism,it would be a good idea to withdraw this bill!

Lynn writes:

Huh? Wasn't this sort of thing quashed a couple years ago? Will they never learn? Do not trample on the reproductive rights of women and let them grieve their losses in private.

Kierstin writes:

Shame on you!!! Go stick your head back in the Bible and get your f*ing politics out of our vaginas, freak!
When women lose babies it is a time for GRIEVING, MOURNING, AND PRIVACY. No one, NO ONE, can tell us what to do when we miscarry.

ccws writes:

This bill constitutes harassment, pure and simple. In addition, it violates Federal law, namely the Health Information Privacy, Portability, and Access Act (HIPPAA), which protects the individual's right to privacy with respect to health and medical information.

Christine Gresser writes:

This is a ridiculously misguided attempt to exert legal control over back-alley abortions, but what it actually has the effect of doing is criminalizing miscarriage. At least 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and as a woman who has survived four miscarriages myself, of very-much-wanted pregnancies, I can assure you that the last thing I would have needed at that time in my life was to have to report my losses to the authorities and get the state involved with my very personal handling of the remains. This bill is abhorrent and Mr. Obenshain should withdraw it immediately. This is an embarrassment to the Commonwealth. Shame on you, Mark. What on God's green earth were you thinking?

John writes:

This isn't about criminalizing miscarriages. It's only about FIXING the current law in Virginia so that when pregnant women intentionally kill their viable unborn babies, they can be charged with an appropriate crime.

In 2006, Tammy Skinner shot herself in the stomach, killing her full term, healthy, unborn baby. She couldn't be convicted of a felony. This law would fix that. That's all, nothing more.

Unless, of course, some of you think it's perfectly fine for a woman to kill her full term baby in such a gruesome fashion. I guess if you're ok with that, then go ahead and oppose this bill.

LarryG writes:

I think this bill is an example of why the Republican Party in becoming increasingly irrelevant for the average person.

When the RPV is perceived as spending it's time on bills like this - and then ignoring issues like funding roads and education - they are putting out a potent message about their priorities -which clearly are not the priorities of a lot of voters.

Lizabeth writes:

About 5 people (women) a year "may" have the unregistered births/deaths that Mr. OBENSHAME is so ardently trying to prevent. He just assumes the JMU college girl had a live birth and killed it by putting the child in a trash can. No JMU college boy has come forward as the grieving father.

OBENSHAME needs to concentrate on his own shortfalls, which as LarryG notes is that he is ignoring Virginia's economic problems. He needs to get away from the wedge issues and concentrate on our problems.

Jennifer writes:

Uh, John, the text reads : ". . . when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother". A mother who shoots herself in the stomach is certainly going to require medical attendance. Not relevant.

John writes:

Uh, Jennifer, you think the mother is going to have a doctor with her when she shoots herself in the stomach? Did Tammy Skinner have a doctor with her when she did just that? That's what it is talking about. In the Skinner case, the fetal death occurred without a doctor present.

This bill is specifically in response to the Skinner case, and others like it -- to give prosecutors something to hang their case on when mothers kill their full-term unborn babies. If you can't read statutes, leave the discussion to the people who can. TIA!

steve writes:

"If you can't read statutes, leave the discussion to the people who can."

That includes you of course. A shooting is going to require some form of medical attention within 24 hours, such as this statute would require for legal reports to be filed on the death of a fetus. A shooting would also generally include police action and investigation such as would be necessary. The actual legal requirement that would need to be made would be extension of human rights to a fetus (which I don't recommend trying either), not the promulgation of a systemic attack on privacy rights and state investigation of natural miscarriages.

What is being proposed here is so draconian and so out of balance with the potential likelihood of preventing the rare and actual crimes such as the one you are apparently all worked up about. If a law creates more harms, through invasion of privacy and state intrusive agencies in private affairs essentially presuming levels of guilt in a situation of natural innocence, ie miscarriages, than it resolves, what is the point of the law?

Waldo Jaquith writes:

About 5 people (women) a year "may" have the unregistered births/deaths that Mr. OBENSHAME is so ardently trying to prevent.

Lizabeth, I know you're angry, and understandably so, but you actually undermine your case by making fun of Sen. Obenshain's name. To ensure that this bill fails, you'll need to persuade individuals who disagree with you (potentially friends and allies of Obenshain's) to change their minds.

This bill is specifically in response to the Skinner case, and others like it -- to give prosecutors something to hang their case on when mothers kill their full-term unborn babies. If you can't read statutes, leave the discussion to the people who can.

John, I'm afraid that you're equally guilty of not understanding the bill.* If Sen. Obenshain wanted this bill to apply to full-term fetuses, then he would have requested a bill that does that. Instead, this bill applies to all stages. That's precisely what makes it so horrendous.

* Which, for the record, there's absolutely nothing wrong with. The purpose of Richmond Sunlight is to make it possible for people who do not understand the legislative process to have a chance to learn about it, and engage in discussion to enhance their understanding of specific legislative proposals. Which is what we're doing here, right now.

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) writes:

I have heard from people across the Commonwealth about S.B. 962, and I appreciate the comments of those who have weighed in on NLS. This legislation was drafted at the request of the Commonwealth Attorney for Rockingham County in response to a specific law enforcement issue. There has been much talk about the intent of this bill; however, my motives are not nearly as sinister as those being attributed to me. As drafted, I agree that the bill is far too broad, and as it currently reads, it would have ramifications that neither the Commonwealth Attorney nor I ever intended.

Let me tell you what motivated the bill. In the autumn of 2007, a student at Bridgewater College admitted to giving birth and subsequently disposing of the child’s remains in a trash bin. The body was then transported to the landfill and never recovered, so it is impossible to know whether the child was stillborn or born alive. In the course of the investigation that followed, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office discovered that, under current law, there are no direct prohibitions on disposing of fetal remains. Had the student in question not disposed of the remains on private property not her own, no charges whatsoever would have been possible.

The following article from Harrisonburg’s Daily News Record provides an account of the incident that precipitated this legislation: http://www.dnronline.com/news_details.php?AID=11287&CHID=1

Let me be clear: I do not support imposing an added burden on women who suffer a miscarriage and I will not allow any legislation that could have that effect to get out of committee. I am working with a variety of interested parties from across the political spectrum to see if it is possible to rewrite this bill so that it addresses only the narrow law enforcement objective. If this proves impossible, I will have the bill stricken.

I am grateful for the opportunity to explain this bill. I am hopeful that it will be possible to amend this legislation eliminate unintended consequences while still meeting the narrow law enforcement objectives I intended.

Victoria writes:

I'm pretty sure thaere is a federal medical waste disposal law that should have been applied here at a minimum. Because if the woman admitted to giving birth, 1) if the baby was alive, neglect abuse murder etc. applies; 2) if the baby was stillborn, medical waste handling laws should have come into play at a very minimum. So law enforcement should have had at least one way to prosecute, or at a minimum fine, that woman.

Ellen writes:

Mr. Obenshain, if I recall correctly, this is pretty nearly exactly what you asserted the last time you submitted this bill. That was at least a year ago. I would like to assume you are sincere, but can you please explain why you didn't fix the language BEFORE resubmitting it? What's that old saying about expecting the same results from the same failed actions? Did you honestly believe that no one would notice? That the bill would fail to spark the same level of national outrage when resubmitted in exactly the same form? I have a difficult time understanding why the statute would be so broadly defined when your stated intent is so limited. If you truly care about that baby in the landfill, then are you not under the obligation (from your own honor) to draft the most reasonable and reasoned legislation in your power? One with a chance of actually accomplishing your aim? You really cannot do better?

Waldo Jaquith writes:

Ellen, I believe that you're thinking of Del. John Cosgrove's 2005 "fetal death" bill. That bill would have added the following paragraph to §32.1-264:

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

And here is the addition proposed by Sen. Obenshain:

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother at or after the delivery or abortion, the mother or someone acting on her behalf shall, within 24 hours, report the fetal death, location of the remains, and identity of the mother to the local or state police or sheriff's department of the city or county where the fetal death occurred. No one shall remove, destroy, or otherwise dispose of any remains without the express authorization of law-enforcement officials or the medical examiner. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

As you can see, they're quite similar. It's extraordinary that Sen. Obenshain wasn't aware of Del. Cosgrove's proposal, or of how embarrassing it proved to Del. Cosgrove, since the sort of cursory research that one does—or ought to do—before filing a bill would have turned it up. Googling for "'fetal death' Virginia" shows how that went last time, and one needs only read the search results (not even the linked sites) to figure that out.

Traci writes:

Mr. Obenshain, while I understand the intent of the bill, how can a law meant to address one instance possibly be fair to the thousands of women who fall under the statues? To think of someone being tossed in court and possibly jail for simply not thinking of a law while their head is swimming is unreasonable.

Perhaps instead of looking for laws to punish these women, we should instead ask for laws that support communities and groups that support for these women.

Jenn writes:

If this passes, no one will go for prenatal care before 15 or so weeks nor will they tell anyone they are expecting. They will get out of the "danger zone" of the first trimester to avoid humiliation and added burden due to this bill. By doing this, mothers will not be able to get certain testing, care or advice from their doctors that can only be done or given in the first trimester.

Go figure this is proposed by a male Republican.

Linda writes:

This is a poor piece of legislation. It assumes a criminal act(..versus a medical emergency). What about the health of the mother. And what about privacy issues? Does "failure to report" get published in the "crime reports" of the local papers next to the DUI's and robbery reports?

Amanda writes:

I think Lizabeth hit the nail on the head though. When something really bad happens, no matter how rare that occurrence is, and how unlikely it is to happen again in the near future, politicians march up to the capitol with a piece of legislation so they can say they are "taking action against the plague of [insert one-time tragedy here]."

Moreover, isn't it completely against the Republican ideology to so boldly and invasively insert the government into the personal lives of its constituents? Or is it only Business who is to be protected from government meddling?

cindy writes:

Quit punnishing women. This is a bad bill. Two wrongs do not make a right. Mark, this is not the answer. Unintended consequences do stretch far. Leave this alone.

Dave Briggman writes:

This bill was STRICKEN on 1/29/09 at Mark's request.

Mary West writes:

I am a woman, and I see what is trying to be done and also the cruel aspect that could result it a bill is not properly written. My answer is to first, call a unborn child "an Unborn Child", and then if some mother to be shots the unborn child before birth, she will face consequences. A normal unwanted miscarriage should not go any further then the home of said miscarriage. I can't imagine anyone throwing an unborn child in a garbage hep. Abortion needs to be overturned as a women has the choice whether or not to get into bed. An abortion 3 months- 9 months later is
killing in my thinking. God created this living being and those who take the life of an unborn child will face our maker.