Death without birth

first_imgLast summer, three weeks before her due date, Sari Edber delivered a stillborn son, Jacob. “He was 5 pounds and 19 inches, absolutely beautiful, with my olive complexion, my husband’s curly hair, long fingers and toes, chubby cheeks and a perfect button nose,” she said. The sudden shift from what she called “a perfectly wonderful healthy pregnancy” to delivering a dead infant was unfathomably painful, said Edber, 27, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Daniel. “The experience of giving birth and death at the exact same time is something you don’t understand unless you’ve gone through it,” Edber said. “The day before I was released from the hospital, the doctor came in with the paperwork for a fetal death certificate, and said, `I’m sorry, but this is the only document you’ll receive.’ In my heart, it didn’t make sense. I was in labor. I pushed, I had stitches, my breast milk came in, just like any other mother. And we deserved more than a death certificate.” So Edber joined with others who had experienced stillbirth to push California legislators to pass a bill allowing parents to receive a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth. During the last six years, 19 states, including New Jersey, have enacted laws allowing parents who have had stillbirths to get such certificates. Similar legislation is under consideration in several more. To thousands of parents who have experienced stillbirth, getting a birth certificate is passionately important, albeit symbolic. “It’s dignity and validation,” said Joanne Cacciatore, an Arizona woman who started the movement after her daughter, Cheyenne, was stillborn 13 years ago. “It’s the same reason why we want things like marriage licenses and baptismal certificates.” But politically, the birth-certificate laws, often referred to as “Missing Angels” bills, occupy uncertain territory, skirting the abortion debate while implicitly raising the question of fetal personhood. Many anti-abortion groups say the laws fill a need for parents. But some abortion-rights supporters see the push for these laws as a barely disguised political move to undermine abortion rights. Last month, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico vetoed legislation that would have granted stillborn birth certificates. Richardson, a Democrat who is running for president, did not mention abortion but said “confusion and potential fraud” could result from creating two documents – the fetal death certificate and the birth certificate resulting in stillbirth – for the same event. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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