Virginia Attorney General Nominee Proposed Bill Requiring Women To Report Miscarriages To Police

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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Just two days after Virginia GOP legislators selected state Senator Mark Obenshain as their next Attorney General nominee, Democrats and Independents have begun digging up various issues from his political past.

Today, ThinkProgress.org reported on a 2009 bill proposal from Obenshain that would have required Virginia women to report miscarriages to the police within 24 hours of their occurrence. If a woman failed to do so, she risked being charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. In Virginia, that can mean spending up to a year in prison or being fined for up to $2500.

Here is the official summary of Obenshain’s bill:

SB 962 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.

Obenshain’s legal team responded to the attention this bill is receiving today. Jared Walczak, a Deputy Campaign Manager for Obenshain’s Attorney General Campaign, says Obenshain introduced the bill in light of a “specific law enforcement issue.”

As noted by Salon, the issue being referred to is the 2008 case of Virginia college student Sarah Wolf. Wolf, 20-years-old at the time, gave birth to her baby in a dorm room and then threw her in the trash. Disposing of a dead body is a misdemeanor in Virginia, but the body of Wolf’s baby was never found. Because of this, she was only sentenced to 30 days in jail. Under Obenshain’s proposal, she could have faced up to a year in jail for failing to report the death, regardless of whether the body was found.

It seems that even Obenshain’s fellow conservative Virginia legislators thought his proposal was too extreme. After all, classifying a woman who has just had a miscarriage as a criminal 24 hours after the event seems harsh. As a result, bill was stricken down unanimously by the State Senate. 

Sources: Salon, Think Progress