A Woman's Place is in the House… and in the Senate

by Jen on April 7, 2008

in Everyone is entitled to my opinion,Teenagers make it look so easy

I just learned Pennsylvania Senate Bill 387 left the Senate for the House of Representatives. If it passes, Pennsylvania parents of stillborn children will be able to get a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth. I wasn’t aware until very recently that in many states (and PA is apparently still one of them), parents of stillborn children do not get any sort of birth certificate at all. Trite as the expression is, there’s no better way to sum it up than to say: that’s adding insult to injury.

One of my oldest, best-est friends (back to kindergarten… and we were each other’s maids of honors twenty years later, too) lost a son at twenty weeks gestation, so although I haven’t been there personally and can’t empathize, I can sympathize. Although she had C-sections for her other three children, this was the only one that she was able to deliver vaginally. She delivered him. He may not have been born live, but he was born.

As of last May, there were three states that offered birth certificates and provided tax deductions for stillborn children (Arizona, Missouri and Indiana). Seventeen states offer birth certificates for stillborn children. Seven (including Pennsylvania) are considering bills to offer birth certificates. In the laws, the gestation period at which a fetal death is considered a stillbirth rather than a miscarriage varies among states, with some starting as early as 20 weeks.”

New Mexico’s governor (Bill Richardson, recent Democratic candidate for president) vetoed a bill last year to allow certificates. Part of the reason for the veto was the concern that anti-abortion advocates would use the legislation to undermine abortion rights. I understand these concerns. I’m adamantly pro-choice. I’ve marched for women’s reproductive rights in Washington, D.C. I’ve helped more than a few friends sort out unplanned pregnancies, even going so far as to be the support person who drove one to the clinic on the day she terminated. I’d like to think that there’s a logical answer to resolving this issues and concerns, but I know well enough that when it comes to reproductive rights, common sense seems to fly out the window. However, I’d think that the language used would be a start. A New York Times article from last year states that stillbirth is “generally defined as a naturally occurring, unintentional intrauterine death after more than 20 weeks of gestation.” So, how about we start there? It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

I don’t have all the answers, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop looking for them.

If you’re from Pennsylvania, and so inclined, you can send a message of support for this bill to the House by visiting here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tash April 12, 2008 at 8:05 am

Thanks for this. I too see the concerns about the verbage and the intentions, and frankly, I’m a wee tad pissed at both sides in the debate for mucking this one up. When I’ve had a bit more sleep I may try and tackle this one myself.You’re lovely to do so.

2 Dr. Joanne Cacciatore April 12, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Thank you very much for your thoughtful blog on this issue. It’s a *crucially* important woman’s issue that has been *very* carefully crafted in every state with language to avoid any confusion or threaten reproductive freedom (frankly, Richardson’s move outraged many women, even those who are pro-choice). We do have a website- http://www.missingangelsbill.orgAnd thank you again.

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