Backlash in Duluth after councilor appears to dismiss woman’s miscarriage

KBJR reports that Duluth City Councilmember Jay Fosle was responding to a woman during a conversation about earned sick and safe time when he appeared to dismiss her story about her miscarriage.

“Thirty-one years ago, I was 19, pregnant and scared,” Christina St. Germaine had just told the council. “I had a miscarriage. I wasn’t able to take time off for work to care for myself to prevent the miscarriage nor post-miscarriage.”

As city councilor Jay Fosle was expressing his concerns about the earned sick and safe time proposal, he appeared to address St. Germaine personally.

“People make choices in life, if you got pregnant at 19 you did that on your own,” he said.

That first comment was met with boos from the crowd.

“That’s too bad,” he continued. “Sorry you feel that way. You made those choices. That’s what life is. Life is a choice. Apparently, with what I just heard, the choices they’re making are, they want things for free, just like the lady said that was up here earlier.”

“I was trying to make a comparison that a citizen had a event in their life and had to make a choice and the outcome was bad and the fact that the Council will have to make a choice that could be bad and possibly hurt businesses in the City. I was interrupted by the group and didn’t finish the statement which was then taken out of text,” Fosle said in an emailed statement to the station.

Fosle didn’t respond to a request for clarification.

The woman tells the TV station she’s gotten a backlash too.

“I did not expect that respected members of the community, some of whom, I considered friends would think it would be okay to contact me and tell me how my miscarriage 31 years ago makes me a terrible human being,” St. Germaine said.

  • Angry Jonny

    Holy sh*t. Patriarchy, condescension, power imbalance and a whole bucket of @sshole in one convenient municipal incident.

    • flqueenfan

      Bucket of @sshole would be a great name for a punk rock band. It also is my new favorite insult. Thank you.

      • Angry Jonny

        My work here is done.

      • theoacme

        I’m sorry, but that still doesn’t top a Kyra Sedgwick/Southern “Bless your heart…”

        …Mr. Fosle, bless your heart…

  • OMG, what a tool. There are politicians out there – you know which party – who never miss a chance to punish poor people, whose first instinct is to shame victims, and who insist this is all for their own good.

    • Barton

      and especially punish women….

  • wjc

    I (continue to) despair for humanity. Can’t we listen to one another without being judgmental? For God’s sake, you can even BE judgmental without expressing that judgment. That would be OK too.

  • jon

    Dear Jay,
    People make choices in life. You made those choices. That’s what life is. Life is a choice. Apparently, with what I just read, you think you can blame your poor choices on a crowd of people, but you made the choice, it had a bad outcome, I’m sorry, but you made that choice to to disparage some one for getting pregnant. It wasn’t the crowds fault you did that, you did that on your own… now own your choices Jay, pull yourself up by them boot straps (also go find some boot straps) and take some personal responsibility.

  • MikeB

    Additional proof that stupid, ill-informed, misguided, ignorant idiocy exists outside of newspaper comments sections.

    • Really, what we’re looking at here is the flaws in our inability to intelligently discuss issues on which we disagree. Rather than acknowledge a perspective, and maybe even think about it, our brains go into overdrive immediately to invalidate a perspective and replace it with our own in the conversation. It’s an entirely illogical approach but we are no longer capable as a human species — if we ever were — to stop.

      • Guest

        Exactly. Folks first gut reaction is “That would not happen to me, because I make different choices” to insulate themselves from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

        Policy is about WHEN stuff happens, not how to avoid bad stuff. Policy can outlive generations.

        The proper role of government is something which we all have a valid viewpoint. We all are trying to improve the US. Starting with these means less need for snark.

        • jon

          //Policy is about WHEN stuff happens, not how to avoid bad stuff. Policy can outlive generations.

          Policy should be both.
          We should be avoiding miscarriages by providing better options for healthcare and self care, we should be dealing with miscarriages that happen anyway with more appropriate access to healthcare, self care, and mental healthcare (which should just be healthcare, but isn’t…).
          We should have policy that discourages pregnancy when you aren’t ready for it through easy access to contraception…

          But ultimately we should understand what policy is, and it’s making an easy path for people travel and making that path the one that is best for society…. and if we as a society feel like getting pregnant at 19 is bad, we should make the easy path the one where you are least likely to get pregnant at 19*, if we feel miscarriages are bad, we should make the path to avoid those happening easy…. and we don’t for either of those things, our policy stands in opposition to our values, and that means either our policy is broken or our values are.

          Ultimately it’s never that simple and we need to weigh a variety of bad options and probabilities, and figure out the way to build the easy path that directs the most people down the most beneficial route for them, for society, and for our values as a society… and some people will see the easy path and opt for a harder one, because it has more rewards on it, they might fall off the easy path on to one that has fewer rewards for more work, and we need a way to get them back to the easy path.

    • BReynolds33

      Indeed. Some of them get elected. Heck… many of them get elected. Real, live, human internet comment sections.

  • Barton

    I worry for Ms. St Germaine. From the source article: “St. Germaine says in light of those negative and in some cases threatening messages she declined to speak on camera….”

    It seems even people she personally knows were giving her negative responses and threatening messages. This is why people don’t share experiences – this is why we are afraid to discuss what is really going on. And as a result, it really seems we never learn empathy and compassion.

  • “… contact me and tell me how my miscarriage 31 years ago makes me a terrible human being.”

    Whomever these people were, they just as insensitive as was the Councilmember.

  • kevins

    Did I miss something or is the Councilperson not understanding what a miscarriage is?

    • I think his point was that she chose not to take care of herself, leading to her miscarriage. Which actually leads to a discussion about whether people who can’t take days off or risk losing jobs are really making a choice or having a choice forced upon them.

      • kevins

        Thanks.

      • JamieHX

        Parenthetically… The pregnancy itself could have been forced, too. There are many women who would like to say “no” but don’t know how or feel they have to acquiesce for a million different reasons — especially younger women, and especially 31 years ago. I know that’s not the core issue here…

    • 212944

      I think this is only scratching the surface of what Jay Fosle does not understand.

  • EarthToBobby

    As if someone actually chooses to have a miscarriage.

    • Kassie

      People blaming women for miscarriage and infertility is a very normal thing in our society. Too much stress. Too much exercise. Too much caffeine. Too thin. Too fat. Most people see it as something the woman did that caused the problem.

  • JMR

    Just another man telling a woman how she should live her life.

  • SPHINX

    “People make choices in life, if you got pregnant at 19 you did that on your own,” he said.

    That first comment was met with boos from the crowd.

    “That’s too bad,” he continued. “Sorry you feel that way. You made those choices. That’s what life is. Life is a choice. Apparently, with what I just heard, the choices they’re making are, they want things for free, just like the lady said that was up here earlier.”

    There’s no additional layer of context, dude. You planted your flag and derailed your own discussion. I don’t feel the least bit bad about any online backlash he receives.

  • NG

    Both are possible interpretations. Hard to say what was actually meant at the time, but either way, it’s just more of “It’s your fault you had a miscarriage.”

  • Tim o’Bedlam

    Was that guy a virgin at age 19? Were any of the people criticizing St. Germaine virgins at age 19? I’ll bet a lot of them weren’t. It sounds to me like he’s blaming her for getting preggo at 19, which, while not ideal, happens to a lot of women.

    There’s no need for him to be so unkind.

  • disqus_MgHA7YjMQH

    Jay took time off for his cancer. Maybe his cancer was caused by his poor life choices. Not exercising, not eating well, and so forth. Why should he get time off for his poor life choices, when a woman can’t? Inquiring minds want to know….

  • Elisabet Casserberg

    But when he has health issues he expects accommodations. http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/3998560-councilors-absences-stir-concern