Miscarriage rarely makes the news, except in tabloids. But last year, Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain’s ill-advised attempt to require Virginia women to report all miscarriages to the police contributed to his failure to become Virginia’s state attorney general. The bill, introduced in 2009, haunted his race for the position. Obenshain was trying to demonstrate his moral outrage over the case of a frightened teenager who had given birth to a premature stillborn baby, and disposed of it in a dumpster. It was a tragic case, to all observers. But instead of asking how his state could better provide sex education and contraception, or provide support to teens who get pregnant, he wrote a bill aimed at surveillance and punishment. On penalty of up to a year in prison, women would be required to report all incidences of fetal demise occurring outside a physician’s supervision to the police. They were to report the pregnant woman’s name and the location of the remains, and would not be allowed to dispose of them without police supervision.
I wish I found the idea of cutting $39 billion from the federal government’s food stamp program (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP) during a recession unbelievable. But, as usual, House Republicans continue to thwart all belief and reason. Some Republicans like Paul Ryan (R-WI) are concerned about the program’s sustainability. They worry that the size of the program will not shrink fast enough over the next four years. However, as Travis Waldron of Think Progress notes, SNAP is based upon income and not employment, therefore explaining the program’s projected marginal decrease.
In the past few weeks, I have witnessed excessive misuse of history to justify political opinions. The presidential election seemed to bring out the historian in everyone, much to my chagrin. Generally, I try to avoid debating people on social media (a wise suggestion for everyone), but I couldn’t stand it anymore during the election returns. Way too often people used quotes taken completely out of context (as I’m screaming, “But context matters for understanding that properly!!!”). On every Facebook status that made me cringe, I put in my two cents and tactfully acted as a caped crusader correcting gross historical inaccuracies and rabid attacks on the historical profession. The responses were depressing. The lack of rational discussion I expected to a degree, but the low level of respect for historians was shocking. I wondered, as many of us often do, how to maintain the accessibility of history to the public and yet still retain authority over our expertise?