New York approves stillborn certificates after years of objections

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After years of battling abortion advocates, a new law will allow parents grieving the loss of a stillborn child to receive a “certificate of stillbirth” in the state of New York.

“Many families who have suffered the agony of a stillbirth want a certificate acknowledging the process, with contractions, labor and delivery, that resulted in a stillbirth,” explained a legislative memo regarding the law.

“They feel it would ease their pain and help in their healing process.”

A law to create a “Certificate of Stillbirth” in New York went into effect on March 21.

Families can now request a certificate of stillbirth from the state Health Department and record a name for their child on it. Families who lost a child before the law went into effect can apply to receive a certificate retroactively.

Approximately 1,700 stillbirths take place in New York every year.

More than half of the states in the U.S. have laws offering certificates for families that experience a stillbirth, including several passed in recent years.

The New York law took more than five years to pass, as debate raged between abortion supporters and opponents over the bill’s language. 

Abortion advocates were concerned that the wording may imply that a fetus is a person, with the same status as a child after birth. 

Supporters of the bill said that it would not affect abortion and was intended to help grieving families in the process of healing.

Discussions about the legislation included technical conversations over the implications of terms such as “fetal death,” “stillborn child” and “certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth.”

After painstaking debate on the legal distinction between a fetus and child, the bill was carefully crafted with wording that was accepted by the legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The final legislation specifies that the new certificates “shall not constitute proof of a live birth.”

“Now that this new law has gone into effect, families can continue to seek closure with a formal recognition of their tremendous loss,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, one of the bill’s sponsors.

She is hopeful that the measure “will help bring parents some comfort by validating the pain brought by this traumatic event.”

“While nothing will ever replace what they lost, a formal certificate of still birth will lessen the pain for these parents,” she said.

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