Why we need a Certificate of Stillbirth

Stillbirth mothers are not acknowledged as mothers by 46 states.

"We will recognize your baby's death, but not its birth" is the message.

But how can that die which has not been born? How did it come into being? Did it ride a space ship to earth? Or did it arrive the way every other baby arrived, from the womb of a mother who conceived and delivered it?

Birth is a process that all mothers endure; live or "still" is the outcome of that process. If we recognize a live birth, why would the state not recognize a stillbirth? Is it to punish the mother whose baby is born dead? Is she not somehow worthy? Did she fail somehow? That's what she thinks. If we give a the mother of a live birth a "Certificate of Live Birth" why would we not give the mother of a stillborn baby a Certificate of Still Birth? That's the reality of what happened.

All mothers give birth; only the outcomes of those births differ.

To deny a woman a "Certificate of Still Birth", when she fails to produce a living child, is to say that she did not give birth, which is not true. To deny a woman recognition for this seminal event in her life is to deny the event occurred. To deny a woman recognition is to tell her she is a failure. It is an open wound upon her soul that will never heal unless and until her sacrifice is recognized, just as live birth mothers are recognized.

Arizona House Bill 2416
Certificate of Stillbirth Fact Sheet

What is the definition of "stillbirth?"

Stillbirth is the intrauterine death of an infant that occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. (A miscarriage is an intrauterine death prior to 20 completed weeks.) Following its death the mother must still deliver her baby. Most stillbirths occur at or near full term.

How are stillbirths recorded in Arizona?

Prior to HB 2416 the Registrar of Vital Records issued only a "Certificate of Fetal Death". This is the only record of the birth the family was able to receive. At the behest of The MISS Foundation the Arizona Legislature in 2001 enacted "The Missing Angels Bill". It requires the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services to issue a "Certificate of Birth, Resulting in Stillbirth".

How many stillbirths occur every year?

According to the ADHS website, in 1999 there were 682 stillbirths in Arizona. It is estimated 40,000 stillbirths occur nationwide every year. Accurate numbers are unknown due to the manner in which stillbirths are recorded. For one, stillbirths are not included in infant mortality rates, thereby substantially understating the extent of the problem. As a consequence of this lack of information neither couples nor the general public are aware of the true risks involved. If they were we believe there would be a hue and outcry for medical research to find the answers.

Why do stillbirths occur?

Only 40% of all stillbirths can be attributed to a specific cause such as a cord "accident", placental problem, malformation, etc. The remainder are said to be due to "undetermined medical reasons". Crack mothers can have normal babies and Norman Rockwell mothers can have stillborn babies. There is no identifiable socio-economic, ethnic, lifestyle or behavioral predictor that can be identified at this point. Stillbirth is truly an "Equal Opportunity" destroyer of dreams. Every woman who conceives is at risk when one considers that 1 in every 115 births is a stillbirth.

The Legislation in the form of the "MISSing Angels Bill" is being filed all across the United States! Arizona was the first to pass its bill, then Utah, Indiana and Massachusetts. It was the M.I.S.S. founder Joanne Cacciatore who helped pioneer and pass this bill in these 4 states!

House Bill 2416 benefits Arizona families in the following ways:

1. Standardized statistical benefits: Issuing Birth Certificates for stillbirths will allow clear definitions for accurate statistical analysis and enhanced understanding of stillbirth. It will also allow for better clarity in classification.

2. Heightened sensitivity: Feelings of inadequacy among women who experience the simultaneous death and birth of their stillborn infant can be devastating. Issuance of a Certificate of Stillbirth recognizes the reality that a physical birthing occurred and validates their "motherhood".

3. Consistency in the law: The family of a stillborn infant is required by law to bury or cremate their child, despite the fact there was no acknowledgement by the state prior to HB 2416 that this infant they were obliged to dispose of had even been "born".

4. Common Sense: Parents of a baby delivered prematurely at 21 weeks who takes just one breath before dying, are given a Certificate of Birth. Parents of a 10-pound baby, whose heart stopped beating just minutes prior to delivery, do not receive a Certificate. This inequity has now been remedied by the passage of HB 2416. It is the first step toward solving the mystery of why babies unexpectedly die in their mother's womb, by simply recognizing the event. "Passing HB2416 was the right thing to do and long overdue", according to Governor Hull, who spoke those words at the Bill signing earlier this summer. HB 2416 took effect August 9th 2001 and is available for all stillbirths, prospective and past alike.

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