Democrats are excited that they have found their chance to paint Mark Obenshain as an “extreme” “uncaring” right winger. If you listen to his detractors, Mark believes in throwing women in jail for not reporting their miscarriage to the police within 24 hours.
Upon further review, this is actually a situation of seeing a problem, trying to fix it, but then withdrawing the legislation when no solution was available.
So what was the problem? In May of 2008, a woman in Rockingham Co. entered a plea agreement of counseling, one year probation, and a 30 day suspended sentence for having thrown her newborn baby in the trash. Because the body was never found, and no evidence was found to counteract the woman’s claim that the baby was stillborn, this was the maximum sentence possible. In light of this incident, the Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst stated, “I entered that plea deal with great reluctance, but because of the current status of the laws in the United States and the Commonwealth, as well as the lack of evidence in this case, and that we never recovered a body, it was necessary in order to preserve a conviction.”
Naturally since Mark Obenshain’s district includes Rockingham Co., she went to him to try to get the law changed. Mark received this request almost right before session and worked with the Commowealth’s Attorney and others on the original draft. The bill he introduced was flawed and he understood that which is why he had absolutely no intention of letting it pass in the form it was introduced. Mark introduced the bill with the plan of using it as a vehicle to address the problem. He then met with every women’s group he could including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the Family Foundation to try to amend the legislation to address the problem. The conclusion of these meetings was a realization that any language that would address the problem would have unacceptable unintended consequences.
What was Mark’s response? He did what every responsible legislator who unsuccessfully tries to address a problem does. Before any vote was taken on the bill, the bill was “stricken at the request of the patron.”
So what was so wrong with what Mark did here? Is there anything wrong with introducing a flawed piece of legislation in order to amend it to fix a problem? Of course not. That happens all the time in politics. Mark Obenshain was not going to allow legislation to throw women in prison for not reporting a miscarriage to move forward. The only reason that after four years, this legislation is being discussed again is that a certain party is trying to twist Mark’s record to paint him as extreme. If the best they can come up with is a bill that he asked be killed, then they are clearly more interested in gotcha politics than pursuing the truth.
For a full statement from Obenshain’s office on the legislation, see below.
“At the request of one of his local Commonwealth’s Attorneys, Senator Obenshain carried legislation (SB 962 of 2009) dealing with a specific law enforcement issue. As sometimes happens, the legislation that emerged was far too broad, and would have had ramifications that neither he nor the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office ever intended. Senator Obenshain is strongly against imposing any added burden for women who suffer a miscarriage, and that was never the intent of the legislation. He explored possible amendments to address the bill’s unintended consequences, and met with representatives of both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice in an attempt to identify a solution. Ultimately, however, he was not satisfied that any amendment could sufficiently narrow the scope of the bill to eliminate these unintended consequences, so he had the bill stricken at his own request.”