Thirty-eight years ago, I had a miscarriage. It was about 12 weeks into a much wanted pregnancy. I started spotting one day and by the next day, it had gotten much worse. The doctor told me I needed to come to the hospital. My husband drove me into downtown Baltimore, to Union Memorial. We were caught in heavy traffic because of an Orioles game -- which should have taught me that I needed an obstetrician who practiced in a hospital that was closer to where I lived (but it didn't).
After examining me, the doctor told me that I was having a miscarriage and would need a D&C (Dilation and curettage) to prevent hemorrhaging or infection. I had confidence my doctor knew what he was talking about, so I had the D&C.
Some women feel immediately bonded with their unborn and grieve their miscarriages, but the older women in my life reassured me. Both my mother and mother-in-law had both had miscarriages when they were younger and they'd gone on to have healthy babies. I accepted that miscarriages were common and I could go on to have children. A few months later I was pregnant again and within a year I gave birth to a healthy baby boy (yay!).
Four years later, we had moved to a larger home and I was ready to have a second child. At one point I thought I was pregnant again, which would have been great because my sister had just gotten pregnant with her second child. I had a heavy period and wondered if it had been an early miscarriage, but a few months later, I was pregnant again. The timing was not as perfect as I would have wanted, but I had my second son five months after my sister's little girl was born (yay again!)
I lived in Maryland during this time, as I have for most of my life. I never had any trouble obtaining birth control, even as long ago as the 1970s. While I'm personally against abortion for myself, some of my friends have had abortions and I figure that's their business. Maryland laws are not terribly intrusive when it comes to women's medical issues. It's not something I've felt the need to worry about.
Five years ago, my husband and I moved to Virginia to be closer to my son and his family. Since then, I've developed a more cosmopolitan view and have become more aware of how local laws can affect us, here in Virginia, and in other states. I've also realized that the very red states are like canaries in coal mines, and what happens in Mississippi could be a precursor for what will happen in Virginia.
Virginia Sen. Mark Obenshain is the republican nominee for Virginia attorney general. Since he received the nomination, his history as a legislator is coming to the forefront. A few weeks ago, I read about a bill Obenshain had put forth a few years ago -- a "miscarriage bill". The text of Obenshain’s bill:
[SB962] 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.http://www.salon.com/...
This news hit me on a visceral level. I've had a miscarriage (maybe two). Could what happened to me have put me in a position of being questioned by the police?
Because women of childbearing years have miscarriages, usually early in their pregnancies. Usually they are married women who view a pregnancy as a blessing. One day a woman who has told her friends, neighbors, and in-laws that she is, or thinks she is expecting, will experience heavy bleeding, and then she isn't pregnant. In the panic of an extremely heavy period and cramping, does she need to worry about saving the pads of blood so that the police can examine them to determine whether or not she was actually pregnant and if this is a "legitimate miscarriage?" Does she need to worry that one of those friends, neighbors, or relatives will report to the police that she was pregnant one day and now she isn't?
Obenshain withdrew the bill because of controversy, but he's already shown his hand -- and demonstrated his inclination to target women if he wins the position of attorney general against Mark Herring in November.
Well, I'm safe from that kind of situation now. I'm past menopause, so I'm not going to be pregnant again. But the picture that comes to my mind is my 6 year old granddaughter who was born in Virginia and will probably grow up and go to college here, and one day might face this kind of situation.
A few days ago, I met with Liz Miller, the Democratic candidate for state delegate in Ashburn, and told me that she wants to work with Terry McAuliffe to repeal the ultrasound bill.
HB 462 -- the "Trans-vaginal ultrasound bill" was later amended to remove the trans-vaginal requirement, but Thomas "Tag" Gleason, who represents my district in the Virginia House (and is considered a "moderate republican" voted for the bill in its original form where the trans-vaginal ultrasound could be mandated.
Yesterday, I stood at my polling place for two hours and handed out fliers to ask people to vote for Liz Miller to be our delegate. I talked to a lot of people and the thing that seemed most on people's minds (especially the women) was the trans-vaginal bill that had been proposed by republicans. I talked with several of them about Obenshain's idea for a miscarriage bill, and more than one of them had heard of the Mississippi miscarriage bill.
When I talk to other women about this, they get a worried look and mention their daughters. Even republican women get worried.
Last night I realized that this is the issue that can help to defeat the republicans in the next election in Virginia -- and possibly for the upcoming elections in 2014, throughout the country.
My husband suggested playing up the "women's rights" theme, but that isn't it. When you mention women's rights, a lot of women in an upper middle class community think it's mostly about women making equal salaries as men (which is an important issue), but if you're a stay-at-home mom, you aren't particularly worried about making a high enough salary to support yourself because you have a husband who is the primary breadwinner for your family.
The phrase, "Vote for your daughters" stuck in my mind. It would fit on a bumper sticker anyway. But I'm not sure that's exactly right. We care about our sons too, and "vote for daughters" implies that our sons aren't important too. Maybe something like this:
Vote Democratic to protect your daughters.I think it would resonate. Women (and men) want to protect their daughters and it might get them thinking about what their daughters need to be protected from. A grandparent like I am will think of our granddaughters.
A young woman who doesn't have a daughter, knows that she is somebody's daughter. might start to investigate to find out what she needs to be protected from.
I'm looking for your input about this idea.
Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 9:18 AM PT: I just talked with Liz Miller on facebook. She read the diary and is trying to retrieve her Daily Kos password so she can login. She also pointed out to me that Tag's name is "Greason" not "Gleason." My bad :)