Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Kill Bill [VA HB 1677], or The Blogosphere Strikes Back  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Virginia House Bill 1677, the proposed law that could potentially impose jail sentences of up to one year [and/or a $2,500.00 fine] on women who fail to report a miscarriage within 12 hours to police, is dead - for now.

Fascinatingly, no traditional major news outlets picked up on the story. Only a few local television newscasts bothered to mention HB 1677, and then only after Del. John Cosgrove withdrew the bill in the face of a grass-roots uproar stirred up when blogger Maura Keaney of Democracy for Virginia "broke" the story on January 6th. Yesterday's Virginian-Pilot carried this unusual piece about the blogs that killed the bill:
Del. Cosgrove pulls bill after Internet fuels fiery protest

By CHRISTINA NUCKOLS, The Virginian-Pilot
© January 11, 2005

RICHMOND — A Chesapeake lawmaker withdrew a bill on Monday that would have required women to report fetal deaths, after he received more than 500 e-mails from people concerned that the measure would punish women who have miscarriages. Opposition to the bill, HB1677, was generated by "blogs," personal Web sites set up by individuals who post information and encourage discussion about topics of interest to them.

Del. John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, was shaken by the speed and volume of the response as word of his bill traveled across the country via the Internet. "I’ve never been blogged before," he said. "The tone of the e-mails has been disgusting. It’s, 'You’re a horrible person. You ought to be crucified.' And those were the nice ones." [read full article]
V-P Columnist David Addis has a good follow-up story today in that paper. He writes,
"I first heard of [the bill] late Friday, from a reader in Charlottesville who'd picked it up from an Internet source. The reader, Eric – I'll protect his family name here, for privacy reasons – was angry. His wife, he said, had lost five children in four pregnancies over the years.

They didn't believe that their personal trauma needed any enhancement from the cops or the legislature. Each event had left his wife 'heartbroken,' he said. 'Our country,' Eric wrote, 'is turning into a frightening place – e.g., where the government pays media personalities to back their policies, where the wealthy create a faux 'crisis’ to rid themselves of the burden of social security – but, thankfully, it doesn’t appear that we’ve slid completely off the edge into a police state yet.'

When I shared these developments with the woman who shares my household, her reaction was a 'WHAT?!?' that might have loosened shingles on the roof. Putting our heads together, we came up with four such traumatic pregnancy losses – they’re called 'fetal death' in Cosgrove’s bill – among our immediate family. And those are just the ones we know about.

The idea that those women, who are so close to us, might have been required to call the police on themselves within 12 hours of the event was repugnant. We wondered about the workings of a mind that would require it." [read full article]
Personally, the news of HB 1677's demise came as a very nice birthday "present" yesterday. I'm breathing a little sigh of relief, and have a little extra spring in my step knowing that we bloggers helped spread the word about a bad piece of legislation, and genuinely made a difference; then again, it might have been the Geritol®. Addis adds,
"Poor Cosgrove. He said he’d never been "blogged" before – nailed by the Internet’s "Web log" community, which heaped e-mail on him, some of it nasty, from all corners of the nation.

Well, I have. From the political left, the political right, and the political sideways. It can be painful, but it can be instructive as well, as we all learned over the weekend. A lot of the bloggers are morons, but a lot are savvy, dedicated, and on target. Just ask Dan Rather.

My parting advice: Grow scales, Cosgrove, or do a better job of writing your bills, because these people aren’t going away. And good on ’em, too."
Chalk one up to the power of a free press.