Sunday, January 09, 2005
It sounds preposterous to talk about criminalizing women who suffer miscarriages, but one Virginia legislator is proposing just that. HB1677, “Report of Fetal Death by mother, penalty” is a bill introduced by John A. Cosgrove (R) of Chesapeake. Cosgrove’s bill requires any woman who experiences “fetal death” without a doctor’s assistance to report this to the local law-enforcement agency within twelve hours of the miscarriage. Failure to do so is punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. [This means up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.]
Background: Reporting of Fetal Deaths
Almost all states mandate reporting of fetal deaths to vital statistics bureaus. These statistics are then collected nationally by the CDC. In most states, health care providers must provide statistics on fetal deaths after 20 weeks gestation (or at a certain fetal weight approximating 20 weeks gestation). Virginia is one of only 7 states, however, that mandate the reporting of deaths of all “products of conception” regardless of gestational age. This includes both spontaneous losses of pregnancy and induced terminations of pregnancy, though the required data fields are different for abortions.
In Virginia, all losses of pregnancy must be reported by health care providers according to current law. The reality, though, is that countless women experience spontaneous abortions in the first few gestational weeks without even being aware of pregnancy, so not all pregnancies of early gestational age are reported. Women who experience miscarriages at home without a doctor’s care may not even think to inform their doctors, especially if the pregnancy is so early that they have not yet even sought prenatal care. Until this bill, though, no one has suggested it was in the interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia to track down these unreported losses of "products of conception".
The Bill: textWhen 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.