On Saturday, Virginia Republicans nominated for attorney general state Sen. Mark Obenshain, who sponsored a 2009 bill that in one iteration would have made it a crime not to report “fetal death” within 24 hours.
The 2009 bill would have made the “mother or someone acting on her behalf” responsible for notifying the police and reporting the location of the “remains.” Otherwise, the mother or person acting on her behalf could be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, which would carry a fine of up to $2,500 and as much as a year in jail. As ThinkProgress notes, Obenshain’s campaign has responded, noting that the original bill was never intended to target every person who miscarries, but just those who deliver stillborn fetuses and then try to hide the remains, pointing to a case of a college student who claims she did exactly that, though no evidence of the fetus was ever found. However, as originally intended, the bill still put more of a focus on a fetus’s life than the life of the pregnant person. Would a scared teen or woman desperate to hide a pregnancy really consider that there’s a law that she’ll be breaking if she doesn’t report the remains of her stillborn fetus?
The Obenshain nomination comes after Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli snagged the GOP gubernatorial nomination; Ciccinelli proposed that anti-choice activists should protest efforts to provide women with access to birth control to the point of going to jail. The state GOP also selected a candidate for lieutenant governor who compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan.
As seen over the last few years with Cuccinelli as attorney general, the state attorney general can wield enormous power when it comes to choosing whether to sign or reject regulations affecting access to safe, legal abortion. By tapping Obenshain for the position, the GOP shows an eagerness to have another anti-choice politician as one of the state’s top executives.
Many of the Virginia state elections in 2012 quickly devolved into fights over reproductive rights. Despite claims the 2014 race will move past “social issues,” it seems from the candidate selection process that that may not be the case.