Grieving parents are fighting for a law that will acknowledge their stillborn children.
The proposed legislation would allow parents of stillborn babies the choice to receive a special birth certificate in addition to the death certificate our state already requires.
The legislation, known to many as the MISSing Angels Bill, has kindled passionate arguments on both sides. Pro-women’s groups are wary that a law, which gives unborn children birth certificates, would hinder a woman’s right of choice. However, those in favor of the bill contend that, by definition, a stillbirth excludes all abortions.
In our state, it is mandatory that a death certificate is issued to a stillborn baby if the death occurred due to natural causes during the last half of pregnancy while still in their mother’s womb.
There are roughly 500 such certificates issued every year in Washington.
While parents do not have the choice to receive a death certificate, the MISSing Angels Bill would give parents the option to also obtain Certificate of Birth, Resulting in Stillbirth for their stillborn child.
National representatives from pro-woman’s groups such as NARAL, NOW and Planned Parenthood have all stated public support of the bill provided the document exclude abortions and that it be optional. Both of these factor have been met in the proposed Washington legislation.
Despite this national support, representatives from these organizations in our state act contradictory and refuse to speak on the topic.
The Washington State representative for the MISSing Angels Bill, Kara Jones, of Vashon Island, has worked with the bill for eight years. She is also a supporter of the feminist element. Jones said, “It is a great disappointment to me to watch as the sisters in the sisterhood run for cover as I, and other stillbirth moms, have come out of the closet demanding recognition and protection for our right to give birth with dignity.”
The MISSing Angels Bill originated in Arizona by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore who established the MISS Foundation after the stillbirth of her daughter, Cheyenne, in 1994. Dismayed at the fact that her child was not issued any legal birth certificate, Cacciatore made it her mission to acquire said certificate for not only her daughter but for every stillborn child. The first Certificate of Birth, Resulting is Stillbirth was issued to Cacciatore’s daughter in 2001.
Dr. Cacciatore speaks passionately on the issue, “This should not fall victim to anyones political agenda. These women, these mothers, carried and gave birth to their babies. They are required, by law, to burry their babies and they’re issued death certificates. Recognizing the birth of these babies is a medically appropriate, physiologically humane and a logical thing to do. It is what is right. It is pro-woman. It is pro-choice.”
Currently, 26 states have signed the MISSing Angels Bill into law. Another six have bills pending. Twelve have Certificates of Stillbirth and, while parents in these states are glad of some attention towards their babies, they are seeking actual birth certificates for their stillborn children, not just commemorative certificates.
Supporters in Washington are seeking a sponsor to champion this piece of legislation. It does not have a bill number yet.