Florida has become the first state in the country to issue what amounts to birth certificates for babies who died in the early stages of pregnancy.
Beginning July first, “certificates of nonviable birth” will be issued upon request to women whose pregnancies end between nine and 20 weeks into the pregnancy. There is even a place on the document for the baby’s name.
When a child dies after 20 weeks into the pregnancy, the state already issues certificates acknowledging the life of the child. In such a case, they issue a death certificate. However, parents whose children die after 20 weeks gestation may also receive a birth certificate upon request.
Babies’ deaths that occur between nine and 20 weeks are called miscarriages. Those that die after 20 weeks are called stillborn.
Some states issue death certificates for miscarriages, but Florida is the first state to issue what amounts to a birth certificate for miscarriages.
The bill was signed into law Wednesday by Republican Governor Rick Scott. Called the “Grieving Families Act,” it seeks to offer comfort and closure to parents who lost a child during pregnancy. Mental health experts say recognizing the life and subsequent death of an unborn child helps with the grieving process.
However, recognizing the the life of the miscarried baby is a problem for some. The Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women fought the bill, arguing that it was just an effort to advance the definition of when life begins.
“Unfortunately we were pretty much the only ones willing to step up on this bill in Tallahassee,” Florida NOW President Terry Sanders told ABC News, “We know the anti-choice movement has well thought these tiny steps toward their goal of denying women reproductive freedom.”
Planned Parenthood was neutral on the measure, and Florida Democrats favored the measure. Republican Rep. Bob Cortes, who sponsored the bill, said it had nothing to do with the abortion debate.
“I’ve made it clear since Day One that this was not intended to be anything other than to give parents an opportunity to obtain a certificate when they lose a child,” Cortes said. “It’s not something that’s being mandated. It’s not required for everybody to do. We’re not defining life.”
He said he was inspired by his wife, Virginia, who runs a nonprofit organization that turns donated wedding dresses into burial gowns for stillborn children and babies that die soon after birth. She also volunteers at a local hospital to help parents grieving after a miscarriage and the issue of certificates repeatedly came up, he said.