Saturday, January 08, 2005

Have Miscarriage, Go to Jail

Thanks to the Virginia chapter of Democracy for America (the successor to Howard Dean's presidential run group) for pointing out this law coming from the heart of the red states, Virginia. Apparently, they want to put women in jail for up to a year if they have a miscarriage and don't report it to the police within 12 hours. Now,I am avowadly pro-choice (as part of my belief that the government should stay the hell away from me if I'm not bothering anyone else), but I don't think you have to be as militantly pro-choice as I am to recognize what an idiotic law this is, and what an evil law this is.

This is the anti-abortion lobby trying to equate a fetus (at whatever stage) with a full blown human being. As a father of 2 (fairly recent) boys, I remember my wife's pregnancy the first time (without having had a kid yet), and the second time (after we already had one), and I never, either time, had any illusions that the fetus in my wife's body was the same as the little kid we had running around the house, or as me or my wife.

But, to pass a law like this one, go to jail if you don't report every miscarriage within 12 hours? This is the typical intersection that I see of serial moralizing right wingers and serial imprisoning prosecutors. The goal, I've often believed, is to get as many people caught up as possible criminals as possible, get them all on probation or parole, and then you really control society (all, that is, except right wingers, who seem to slide from just about every wrong thing they do).

I know my site's veered too much into the political at times, and I've tried to steer it back to criminal law, but in my mind, this is criminal law at it's best (or worst).

Is there anyone around who can justify this proposed law?

4 comments:

John Jenkins said...

On 12 Jan 05, the Bill was killed in committee. Imagine that, some whackjob legislator introduces a stupid law and it gets killed in committee, but not before everyone who has an axe raises some hell.

However, if I were to try and justify it, what I would probably say is that it is a response to some young woman who tried to hide her pregnancy and had the baby somewhere other than a hospital near term, and there was a real question as to whether the child was born alive.

Someone thought the girl ought to be charged with something, so they came up with an overbroad statute that might have covered that and 10,000 other situations. A bad law, written by a non-lawyer.

Incidentally, looking at the entire law, it seems to have NOTHING to do with abortions or equating a fetus with a human being. This is three (ill-advised) lines added to a statute requiring medical records be kept when abortions or miscarraiages occur.

Anonymous said...

"I remember my wife's pregnancy the first time (without having had a kid yet), and the second time (after we already had one), and I never, either time, had any illusions that the fetus in my wife's body was the same as the little kid we had running around the house, or..."

Perhaps if your wife had a miscarriage in her 2nd or 3rd trimester you'd think differently. Since she didn't, you're position to comment is a little questionable.

Anonymous said...

As someone whose mother had 5 miscarriages before she had me, I cant imagine the extra heartbreak having to 'report' this to an official within 12 hours would cause, when something like this can take months to emotionally recover from.

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