Obenshain, Hanger Co-sponsor “Umbilical Bill”

Brent Finnegan -- January 21st, 2010

State Senators Mark Obenshain and Emmett Hanger are two of several patrons of a bill that defines the “independent and separate existence” of an infant regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut. WSVA reports:

Several Valley state legislators have sponsored a bill in which killing an infant that is still attached to its mother by an umbilical cord would become a murder and punishable by imprisonment. Campbell County Virginia law enforcement officials were frustrated in December when they could not charge a woman that suffocated her child while it was still attached to her by umbilical cord and placenta.

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58 Responses to “Obenshain, Hanger Co-sponsor “Umbilical Bill””

  1. David Miller says:

    So, drop funding for mental illness treatment then increase criminal prosecutions for crimes that can only be committed by the mentally ill(the woman referenced should obviously have a psychiatric examination ). This is a net loss scenario for society. Prisons cannot and do not treat mental illness, they only exacerbate it.

    This is obviously an attempt to strip women of their rights. It’s one step along the path at least. The one woman desperate enough to kill her newborn child being used as an example for the necessity of this “bill” should instead be used to argue for higher funding for Planned Parenthood so that unwanted pregnancies are avoided entirely. Of course we could always just pump more money into the abstinence only education program, its working so well and all.

  2. David Miller says:

    How about some real solutions instead of this “bill” Senators Mark Obenshain and Emmett Hanger? Instead of “fighting the good fight”, solve the budget problem, rebuild our infrastructure, encourage job creation.

  3. That’s horrible that the law didn’t already cover that situation as being murder. I’m glad they moved to correct that.

  4. David Miller says:

    I applaud you for falling for their ploy; limited (yet incredibly intrusive) government folks are so willing to give up their rights (or their neighbors) when they see fit.

    Do you support increased funding for prophylactics, increased sex education budgets (not to abstinence only “education” programs that fail but to programs that teach young adults how to responsibly manage their biological urges), mental health screening/assistance funding, and health-care for your fellow humans?

    By all means tell me if you want to increase all of these things that are proven reducers of abortion and I will applaud you in seriousness.

  5. David Miller says:

    and Jason and Jeremy I think that we can all agree with Jeremy when he asserts that closing that loophole in the murder laws is important.

    Importantly though we must recognize that bills like these are used to erode rights, not fix loopholes. The loopholes are the whipping boy for the bill, the bill’s purpose lies elsewhere

  6. David Miller says:


    My point revolves around the fact that poverty and mental illness are the major factors in alot of these cases. You’re dismissing the cause as if it were immaterial. You’re also missing the point that most legislation like this is a local attempt at overturning federal law, ie: a waste of time and resources. The only thing this bill addresses is that when a mother murders a child upon birth, she’ll then go to jail instead of an asylum.

  7. Brooke says:

    David, my first gut reaction was the same as yours, that this was nothing more than a ploy to create an end-run around Roe v. Wade, BUT after looking at the proposed bill (which is an amendment of existing legislation) it does seem to be clarifying the idea of “human infant, independent, separate existence.”

    After reading the amended portions, it does seem that this is indeed addressing issues where an infant that has been birthed alive, not seeking to give fetuses legal standing.

    For that reason I do agree with the bill.

    I have much more qualm about the “personhood” bill that a member of the VFF will be presenting before the General Assembly. While I personally believe that life begins at conception, or shortly thereafter, no matter how much the idea of abortion pains me, I just am not sure how you give legal standing to a life that resides in and is wholly dependent upon residing within the body of another born person. Nor do I think legislation is even close to the best answer to the moral problem of abortion.

  8. David Miller says:

    I’ll never get these folks that refer to abortion as “health care.”

    I’m not talking about abortion as health care, though it is in many cases.

    I am mainly referring to the positive impact health-care can have upon families. The positive impact on families that only financial security and education can bring is what I was trying to point to as solution to this kind of action by a mother. Desperation breeds these types of scenarios, lets agree that we could work towards limiting the plight of our neighbors instead of arguing about each others views on abortion rights (since Roe v Wade was argued already)

  9. David Miller says:


    I’m glad that you actually read the bill, sorry I didn’t! I’m glad that they are not trying to overreach but I’ll have to remain skeptical towards their goals.

    That being said, I don’t want to come off as some weirdo out there PROMOTING abortion. I don’t normally talk about it but I am pro-choice. I am pro-choice because I don’t ever want the government telling me what I can and can’t do with my body. Therefore I cannot tell someone else what to do with theirs. I prefer to keep it at that, the moral issues are too complex to adequately do justice the dilemmas in blog commenting format

  10. Brooke says:

    I agree David.

    If we’re really going to make headway on making abortions much less common, we need to address the reasons women and families end up feeling it’s their only/best option (which I would say it seldom truly is). Access to affordable child and health care is one. Resources for single and impoverished mothers is another. People coming along side to encourage, love and help women through crisis pregnancies – even if they end up choosing to abort.

    Information and access to pregnancy prevention is possibly the most important. While I think abstinence *only* (emphasis on the “only”) programs are extremely short-sighted and ineffective, I do think it’s important that any sex education include information on abstinence, as it’s the only fool proof method of contraception. Kids need to hear that more often than they do. Young people also need information on and access to contraception should they decide not to abstain. I’m hoping my kids will abstain until they’re married, and will encourage them to do so, BUT I’m going to make darn sure they know what to do if they decide not to.

  11. David Miller says:


    You said it best, thanks

  12. Lowell Fulk says:

    David and Brooke, I have communicated with each of you, at different times, to express my appreciation of both your thought processes and how you arrive to conclusions.

    You have both reinforced my confidence in each of you by your response to this thread.

    Thank you.

    Both of you, each of you, have a positive role to play in the future of our community. You both make our community better because of your involvement…

  13. Lowell Fulk says:

    And thank you Brent, for your continuing interest and involvement.

  14. Brooke says:

    So, Jason, are you willing to pour resources into investigating every miscarriage (most of which are spontaneous not to mention emotionally painful for the women who experience them) as potential feticides?

    And I have to say, many, if not the vast majority of the men and women I know who work with agencies like the H’burg Crisis Pregnancy Center, seek to show the love and grace of Christ to women, even post-abortion. I can’t help but wonder how that mission fits in with what you’re saying? The message that the public gets from the pro-life community ends up sounding something like “God offers grace, forgiveness and healing, but if I had my way, you’d be strapped to a gurney or rotting in prison right now.” I’m just not sure that’s the appropriate response as a Christian, even one grieved by the loss of innocent life. There are better ways to address this – more Christ-like ways – than thundering condemnation.

  15. Brooke says:

    It’s called grace. One need not resort to “hang ’em all..those murderers” type response in order to be unwavering in a pro-life stance. Gentleness is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.

    And honestly, short of being given access into women’s personal, privileged OB-GYN medical files, you’re not going to know if their DNC was due to a miscarriage or an abortion at 8-12 weeks. That’s why I ask about investigating miscarriages. You’d have to investigate every DNC or post-miscarriage treatment to determine which was which.

  16. “Once a killer, always a killer.” Moses? King David? The Apostle Paul?

    From my POV, Perry Neel put it well in the November 2008 eightyone magazine.

  17. Brooke says:

    Are you for real, or are you just another internet troll?

    For what it’s worth, I absolutely get the belief that if life begins at conception, then abortion is taking an innocent life. BUT that’s a far cry from believinga woman that makes the difficult and painful decision to end a pregnancy presents a clear and present danger to other others, and who should not only be imprisoned but summarily executed to save other inmates and guards.

    That has to be the most judgmental, callous thing I have ever heard, and I am thankful that none of my pro-life friends share your mindset. I definitely suggest you refrain from ever working at a Pregnancy Center. I can’t imagine telling a scared young woman that if she aborts you hope she’s executed so she won’t kill other people. Can’t imagine that’d make an effective counseling method. And no, it’s anything but Christ-like.

  18. Lowell Fulk says:

    Jason, please explain the differences to which you refer in your post @ 8:21pm? What are suspicious cases? And please know, law enforcement can only investigate and prosecute that which is illegal. What are you saying should be illegal?

  19. Emmy says:

    I’m very glad that Brooke pointed out the fact that if you lose a baby and nature does not take it’s course and you then go to the hospital for a D&C then it is listed as an abortion on the paperwork. I think that fact should be taken into consideration when considering abortion statistics in general!

  20. Lowell Fulk says:

    Jason, please explain further? I appreciate your trust in doctors, but could you elucidate just a bit? Where would you draw the line regarding “suspicions”? At what point should “concerns” be turned over and made the responsibility of, law enforcement? What system is it to which you refer that is better than giving women the, in your words, “absolute authority to murder a child”? I’m not familiar with that particular system.

    And I’m quite curious, would you be willing to pay higher taxes to enforce this moral code?

  21. Lowell Fulk says:

    Jason, please know I respect your opinions.

    But in order to better address them, I must be better informed regarding your concerns… I ask you again, respectfully, to elaborate on your thoughts and opinions.

    You say for example: “Many late term abortions are being done with no consequences.” Could you provide some background regarding your statement?

    Jason, I am with you on wanting to prevent abortions. What I am asking you to consider, is how to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. which are 100% of the reasons for abortions…

    Please know that I respect you and your concerns. And I would like to work with you on this issue.

  22. seth says:

    ok guys,
    abortion is necessary in our society, and as such it will continue to exist. however, i have always wondered how people are so comfortable labelling themselves as pro choice when in many parts of the world, that means that they’re more or less ok with female infanticide.

    at any rate, if you want to make a ‘keep your laws off my body’ stand that doesn’t create all sorts of complex moral quandaries, might i recommend supporting delegate morgan on hb 1134?

  23. Deb SF says:

    @ 10:10, Jason says “As for preventing unwanted pregnancies, the most obvious way is for girls to stay off their back and if they get pregnant own up to it and take responsibility. People don’t want to take responsibility for anything these days.”

    Especially, apparently, the guys.

  24. seth says:

    i see what you’re saying and i’m defintely on board with you. however, one of the problematic aspects that i see with the way things are is that it’s difficult on one hand to tell a man that he should take responsibility for his actions, and then on the other to tell him that he has no legal right to determine (or even really provide input on) their consequences.

    like i said, this issue is complicated and it seems like the general concensus is that the bill we’re discussing on this thread really doesn’t have anything to do with it anyway.

    neither does hb 1134. but that’s the kind of thing that makes me proud to identify as a republican.

  25. Lisa says:

    Personally, I am and always will be pro-choice for many of the reasons already discussed by David and Brooke. I would like to applaud them for having a meaningful exchange of ideas which includes facing the realities that exist in our world.

    I’m tired of hearing about extreme positions that don’t confront reality, or the reasons women find themselves in such an awful situation in the first place.

    I think folks with such extreme beliefs on both sides (the pro-life and pro-choice) should be put in a room together, and not given any food or water, and not allowed to come out until they can find the place where they can agree and live in the same world where we don’t have to debate this over and over and over again.

  26. Agreed, Lisa.

    While all the activists are in that room, they should be forced to watch this 1983 documentary. It had a huge impact on me when I saw it in 2003, and changed the way I thought about the topic. If there is such a thing as an unbiased documentary, this is it.

  27. Deb SF says:

    Seth, I see two separate issues here.

    The first is the level of responsibility associated with having sex and risking conception. I would argue this responsibility rests equally with men and women; thus my negative reaction to the comment “for girls to stay off their back”. Howzabout the boys stay off the girls? Perhaps we agree on this?

    Then there’s the responsibility of dealing with the consequences of conception- bringing a child to term and raising him/her to adulthood.

    I would argue that consequences- physical, cultural, emotional, financial- fall disproportionately on women. Physically, consequences range from permanent physical changes to her body during pregnancy and delivery to literally the risk of death. Then after a woman’s physical recovery and absence from the work force, she faces a changed level of financial independence and a differing ability to earn and progress in her career for the rest of her life. Then there’s the cultural pull, ranging from the push for everything from breast-feeding for the first year to being the permanent default parent responsible for sick kids, problems at school, and being the CEO and keeper of the calendar for the household.

    The father doesn’t just bear the same post-conception consequences as the mother. On average, the “costs” fall disproportionately on the mom.

  28. seth says:

    we do agree on a lot of this (probably just about all of it). i’m willing to concede that the ‘costs’ do fall disproportioinately on females (although there’s also a significant part of me that’s inclined to say ‘sorry, life’s not fair’).

    what i cannot abide by is the fact that if a female that i impregnated (possibly even a spouse) determined that the fetus was trisomy 21, she could terminate that pregnancy without so much as asking my opinion (and again, there’s that significant part of me that’s inclined to say ‘sorry, life’s not fair’).

    at any rate, i’m almost always suspect of individuals who label themselves as either pro life or pro choice.

  29. Lisa says:

    I see a couple of issues here too.

    For a country who can put a man on the moon, we, as a country, still have not figured out when life begins, and when life ends.

    That’s really what the issues are here.

  30. seth says:

    don’t mean to be impudent, but if you identify as pro choice, isn’t that irrelevant?

  31. Lisa says:

    With a pro choice position, I believe that we all deserve to make those choices for ourselves. Having that freedom allows all of us to live and believe differently and still co-exist. Pro life does not allow for both positions.

  32. A state budget that is in meltdown. Thousands of school budgets in jeopardy. Public Safety budgets in limbo. A broken transportation system and no plan to fix it. Now Prince Obenshain is working to fix a murder conviction in Campbell County via an “umbilical bill”? Call it the “Naval-Gazing Bill”. Our representatives have abandoned us for their ideology.

    We’re on the slippery slope to Haitian-style governance.

  33. Olivia says:

    I can’t help but be very bothered by the real intentions of this bill. I identify as pro choice and like to point out that even God gave us free will. Therefore, it is not okay for irrational folks like Jason to suggest they should be making the decisions for all of the fertile females in the world. When there is that much hate behind a belief that it is evident on blog postings, these persons have problems much bigger than the topic of discussion.

  34. seth says:

    “With a pro choice position, I believe that we all deserve to make those choices for ourselves. Having that freedom allows all of us to live and believe differently and still co-exist. Pro life does not allow for both positions.”

    so then you don’t believe it’s important for us ‘as a country’ to figure out when life begins and when it ends and that really isn’t what the issues are here (again, i’m not trying to be a jerk. i think trying to figure out when it’s a baby is a pretty fruitless endeavour and i was somewhat surprised when you seemed to disagree with that in your previous comment).

    i don’t identify as either because i think they’re pretty stupid labels, but if you had to put me in a box, i’d be labelled pro life (it’s not ok to abort females, it’s not ok to abort the cognitively disabled, etc). i really don’t feel great about aborting anything/one that’s not a direct threat to the health of the mother, but i also realize the utility of abortion and that if it weren’t a readily available procedure, that people would be forced into some very dangerous situations (in short, i think it’s fallacious to state that you can’t be pro life, but believe that people need to have the option (i am, i do)).

    olivia, take a look back at brooke’s comment from 7:05pm yesterday. i understand the paranoia (i’ve seen the far right try to maneuver in indirect ways which would establish the sentience of a fetus) but it’s been established that that really isn’t what’s going on here (at least to dave’s reluctant satisfaction). i think the real intention is to make sure that if you smother a baby right after it’s born, you get charged with murder. seems like a no brainer, but apparently some clarification was needed as this had occured and the police were unable to charge the mother with murder.

    and bubby, i’m not entirely sure where your objection lies. you seem to be saying there’s no time for this sort of thing. while i agree that there are many important priorities, i wouldn’t think something as obvious as this would require a ton of debate (unless people are just being assinine).

  35. seth says:

    (and can you explain the reference to haitian- style governance? perhaps i’m dense, but i’m not getting it)

  36. To anybody here who thinks that “abortion is murder” is a position supported by the Bible (not stated here, but regularly argued on the pages of the DNR and elsewhere endlessly), it is not so. The only place in the Bible that there is a specific reference to abortion is Exodus 22:21. There it says that if a man causes a woman to abort by violently attacking her (unquestionably worse than a woman choosing to do so on her own), then he will make an economic payment to her family in restitution. That is it, and this is a portion of the Bible where the death penalty is called for children who disobey their parents and for couples who have sex while the wife is having her period. Violently causing a woman to abort is less serious than those (and certainly not murder, as the same section of the Bible calls for death).

    I recognize that there are many people who believe life starts with conception (and that is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church through various Popes, and I recognize that devout Catholics believe in the infallibility of the Pope). But any advocate of “Biblical inerrancy” is either lying or ignorant if he or she argues that “abortion is murder” based on the Bible. Simply dead wrong.

  37. When you believe taxes are evil, but expect to have schools, safe drinking water, police protection, fire / emergency services and a working transportation system you either worship economic voodoo, Reaganomics, or both. Either way, you are headed for a reality no sensible person would want to share.

  38. Dave Briggman says:

    Professor Rosser, I find it rather ironic that so-called conservatives are mostly pro-life when it comes to a baby, but have no problem with the imposition of the death penalty, whilst liberals generally support the opposite view.

    That having been said, I see nothing constitutional in the aborting of a baby. Of course, Congress’ attempt at taking over the nation’s healthcare system would naturally have resulted in government tell women what they could or couldn’t do with their bodies…liberals apparently had no problem with that inevitable truth of Obamacare.

    BTW, how’s Obama’s economic policies doing for you?

  39. Lowell Fulk says:

    Many words have been written on this thread, and in my mind the most pertinent have been by Deb and David and Bubby. The least pertinent being the bill by Senators Obenshain and Hanger… Many of the arguments have been repetitions of arguments made for generations. Just new folks involved…

    And Lisa, I like your sentiment perhaps most of all, let’s stick ’em in a room all to themselves while the sensible people take care of the business of society…

  40. intheknow says:

    While many might think that something is fishy with this bill, those who were involved in the situation know that such a law will prevent such murders in the future. Since no other person posting has any first-hand info on the Campbell County story, maybe a little research will help open the eyes. The mother allowed her baby to suffocate between her legs, born alive, yet still connected but the umbilical cord. The initial call for this bill, by Sen. Steve Newman, was raised due to the reports of the professionals involved and the obvious emotional trauma some of those professionals were unable to hide in their public statements. You can bicker about abortion and the reporting of miscarriages, but this is really about post-birth murder, with the umbilical cord used as the “get out of jail free” card. This story tells most of the story; the mother even mentioned the crys of the baby to employees at the hospital.

  41. Emmy says:

    Intheknow, from what you just posted I see no issue with trying to prevent this type of thing in the future. Being born alive, but still connected to the umbilical cord shouldn’t have prevented her from being tried for murder as it sounds like this was a full term infant that would have survived. My issues are using this bill to try and charge women who have an abortion with murder, and the idea that a mother whose baby died after she gives birth through no fault of her own could be charged with murder.

    Abortion is legal whether some commenters like it or not, and I don’t want laws like this to be used to try to circumvent that law.

    I also know a woman who gave birth (pre-term) at home to her baby and while the baby was born alive, it did not survive. She did nothing wrong, and I can’t imagine the horror of someone deciding she should have been charged with murder. It could be a potentially slippery slope.

  42. seth says:

    come on,

  43. Lisa says:

    Seth, I was simply stating a fact, when I wrote that we haven’t figured out when life begins and when it ends. You must have missed my point, which is… if we are smart enough to put a man on the moon and we still can’t firgure those things out, then it must not be as easy as putting a man on the moon…..and until we as a country figure it out I will remain open minded and stick with the position that allows freedom of choice for everyone to co-exist.

  44. Deb SF says:

    Interesting debate on the issue of where life begins and ends.

    About 5 years ago, I watched my mom die at home, in hospice care, about 8 months after a diagnosis of lung cancer. The hospice folks, especially Tara, the nurse who came to the house most during the last weeks, helped me understand the process of dying and how to help someone through it in a way no book or lecture or blog post could. I had to see it and be part of it to really understand. My mom was gone about a week before her heart and breathing stopped. I still continued to treat her, keep her clean, change bedding and diapers, but she was gone in all meaningful senses well before she died. There’s a continuum that most of us travel when we die (instantaneous death is pretty rare, I think) and a parallel path we travel from our conception to becoming a human being.

  45. Emmy says:

    Nice post Deb. I totally agree.

  46. Andy Perrine says:

    Wow. Thanks, Deb.

  47. Brooke says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Deb.

  48. seth says:

    wise words deb,
    lisa, sorry, i don’t mean to be unecessarily contentious. i understand the whole ‘it must be very difficult to determine when life begins’ sentiment, but in reality we’ve pretty well determined a measure which seems to work pretty well for now. if a baby is viable outside of the mother, then our society seems to accept that it’s alive. and while i’m certainly no expert, my understanding is that the currently accepted limits on when abortions can be performed (w/in the first two trimesters, right?) are based on medical facts regarding viability that date back to the 1970s (read, if we were being consistent w/ the way in which we’ve determined limits in the past, it seems some revision might be necessary with regards to earlier viability).

    at any rate, i think it’s a decision women in our society must be able to make, and i’d never judge anyone on the basis of such a decision. personally though, i think using logic like ‘if it’s harder to determine when a life is a life than it is to send a man to the moon, then i’m ok w/ abortion’ isn’t really logic at all.

    and to reiterate once again, this bill really doesn’t have anything to do with any of this.

  49. Lisa says:

    Wow Seth. I think you just want to argue.

    As others have already stated, this bill does begin to climb or slide a slippery slope, which is how we found ourselves having the same old tired debate. I agree with Bubby, David, and others who basically said we shouldn’t spend time on this type of legislation.

    Move on to the more pressing issues of the day, budgets, jobs, taxes, healthcare, and let’s leave the moral issues for………Seth and himself to resolve in a room somewhere :)

  50. Tried to post this before, and it did not appear, although Brent says he did not block it. But it is contentious. It is a critique of those who claim that “abortion is murder” is something found in the Bible. It is not, far from it.

    There is one place (and only one) where abortion is mentioned specifically in the Bible, Exodus 22:21, where it speaks of the proper punishment for a man who causes a woman to abort by violently attacking her, a lot worse I think in pretty much anybody’s book than a woman herself choosing to have an abortion for whatever reason or at whatever time. The man is supposed to make a payment to her family, amount specified by them. In short, he has to pay a compensatory fine. This is a part of the Bible where not only does murder call for the death penatly, but children disobeying their parents and married couples having sex while the woman is having her period. So, according to the Bible, abortion, even one caused by a man violently attacking a woman, is not as evil as a child disobeying his/her parents or married couples having sex during the wife’s period, and certainly far less serious than murder.

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