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Birth Certificates for Stillborns?

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This explosive issue creates controversy among parents.


Lawmakers in New York are pushing for birth certificates to be issued when babies are stillborn. Presently, parents only receive a fetal death certificate in such cases. But for many families, a birth certificate is a symbolic way to recognize and validate that their child actually existed.

Opponents of this practice say that issuing birth certificates to stillborn sets a dangerous precedent that could later be used to violate abortion rights. If a stillborn baby gets a birth certificate, that signifies life. And that could mean that a growing fetus also has life, which could threaten Roe v. Wade.

What do you think: Should stillborn babies receive a birth certificate or not?

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25 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous June 18, 2008, 2:01 PM

if the baby does not take a breath of air then this baby should not receive a birth certificate…….

April June 18, 2008, 2:06 PM

My best friends’ son was stillborn at 41 weeks. They didn’t get a birth certificate, and to this very day, they are upset over that.

No, their son didn’t take a breath of air. But he was still a person. He lived for 9 months in his mother’s womb - he kicked her, had the hiccups, and did somersaults on her bladder.

I don’t care if people believe that giving birth certificates for stillborns will be used to violate abortion rights. What about the rights of the parents, and of the siblings - what about their right to have a piece of paper that represents that YES their child was a real person. Since when do the rights of people wanting to kill their unborn babies become more valid than the rights of others?

Jennifer June 18, 2008, 2:06 PM

If a birth certificate were issued, it would open up even more opportunity for fraud and identity theft. Yes, the person stolen from is dead, but this is a dangerous precedent as it gives thieves a larger pool of birth certificates to appropriate and use for false identities.

QueenBee June 18, 2008, 3:18 PM

Just last month my sister-in-law went into her doctor’s office at 10:00am the day AFTER Mother’s Day. They told her that she would be induced that afternoon. Olivia’s heartbeat was strong and throughout the whole pregnancy she was textbook healthly.
At 1:00pm when she arrived to the hospital, Olivia’s heartbeat was gone. My sis in law still have to give birth and a little past midnight Olivia was born. She was a healthy 8 pound baby with lots of brown hair. Unfortunately the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Some time in the 3 hours my sister in law waited, Olivia was strangled to death in her mother’s womb. A little tiny beautiful girl who would have been 7 months apart from my son, who would have played together, gone to school together, and might possibly been best friend was 3 little hours away from coming into this world……… close to being my niece.
Can you tell me that Olivia isnt a person, that our whole family didnt imagine the things and plan out our life with her over the past months in her mother’s womb? She was alive to us.
She was issued a birth certificate, and a volunteer photographer came and took professional pictures of Olivia and her family. My sister in law spent the hours of midnight until 10:00am in the morning with Olivia.
Olivia was given a funeral and put in a small casket and buried underneath the hands of an angel statue in a new half of the cemetary designated for children.
The process created such good closure for our whole family.
Can you tell me that Olivia didnt exist for us?
Does Olivia not deserve the recognition of being a member of our family?
What is the value of Olivia since she never took a breath of air?
Can you tell my sister in law to her face that Olivia wasnt real because she never took that breath of air?
I’ve cried every time I think of my sister in law going home with empty arms and having to put every piece of clothing, the crib, the highchair, the toys, the blankets for Olivia away. This little girl existed for us, always will. Olivia deserves the recognition.Just 3 more hours and Olivia would have been a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, and a friend. Just 3 more hours…………….

Kelley June 18, 2008, 4:31 PM

I would never want to be insensitive to any parents who have gone through such a horrible tragedy, however, I just don’t believe that government documents are meant to be (or should ever be) “symbolic.” We have too many contradictory laws as it is, the last thing we need is another one. Issue a “certificate of live birth” (because that’s what mine says), declares that a fetus is alive before leaving the womb, which while I personally believe, would certainly do serious harm to current abortion policies. I also fail to understand how a government document is required to validate a child’s life. I didn’t lose my child, but I know that I didn’t need his birth certificate to know that he was alive, and to know that he was alive LONG BEFORE I gave birth.

Amy June 18, 2008, 5:38 PM

I don’t understand how this is a threat to abortion rights. Abortions after a certain point in fetal development are illegal, are they not? So fetuses stillborn after that point should be considered babies who have died, just as a fetus such as Laci Peterson’s was.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a baby at full-term. I lost one early in a pregnancy, and it devastated me for months afterward. My baby was alive to me, and all I had to remember him or her by was a used pregnancy test - not even a sonogram. So I can understand why some parents need validation of their baby’s existence, however brief, in order to heal and move on.

No one is threatening to take away anyone’s rights; let’s not let fearmongering impede some families’ ability to heal after tragic losses.

QueenBee June 18, 2008, 6:32 PM

One thing I need to correct in my previous statement is that I wish Olivia was issued a birth certificate. She never received one.
If a baby lives for 20 minutes it gets the validation unlike my sister in laws case where Olivia doesn’t receive it because of a technicality.
Do we know Olivia existed? Yes.
Would it help families if birth certificates were issued? Yes, but I think there should be a certain type issued saying “death upon arrival” or something. It wouldnt make sense to write “certificate of live birth”. But, a certificate that states the existence of someone would be nice. Alive, or dead.
Why does it have to be mandatory? A mother should choose if she wants the certificate issued. I don’t really understand how abortion rights will be affected, if its a choice. Is it the reason about making a baby real at any given time inside the womb? Like the previous poster, Conner was as real as you or me. Scott was responsible for his death. Last time I checked, that didn’t even put a dent in abortion rights.
Dont taken away the rights of a grieving parent because you didnt feel that a piece of paper made someone real. Some parents need it.

SugarPlumFairy June 18, 2008, 8:08 PM

I think it’s ridiculous that abortion rights activists would dispute this. A baby is a baby is a baby — whether it has taken its first breath or not. If people want to abort their children that’s one thing — but don’t try to take away from someone else who is going through one of the most painful experiences imaginable.

Archena June 18, 2008, 9:40 PM

In the State of Alabama - which incidentally was the first state in the Union to start issuing birth certificates - birth certificates were issued for all births (I worked for Vital Records and have seen those certificates. I believe the option still exists but cannot say so with certainty). The certificate noted whether the child was born alive or not.

Printing a form that says ‘Certificate of Birth’ instead of Certificate of Live Birth’ is a simple administrative change. It’s actually a better protection from identity theft because the death is noted on the certificate.

Give the grieving parents their child’s birth certificate and quit the extremely cruel insistence that their child wasn’t really a child. It’s vicious and absurd.

Anonymous June 19, 2008, 12:21 AM

Yeah, if it’s not born living, I don’t see why it gets a birth certificate.

Julie June 19, 2008, 6:50 AM

“Yeah, if it’s not born living, I don’t see why it gets a birth certificate.”

Because it was BORN, the mother gave BIRTH.

Jenn June 19, 2008, 9:22 AM

Due to a blood clotting condition (which I did not know I had until very recently) I delivered my first child at 34 weeks. I was at home and realized my very active child was not moving. I later found out that I had lost him. He was born 2 days later, after I was induced. We named him, held, had a funeral for him. I dare anyone to dispute that he was never living. I agree that a “certificate of LIVE birth” won’t work, but something, a death certificate. I am now the mother of a 5 1/2 month old baby girl, she too was born at 34 weeks and spent 5 weeks in NICU. The were the same age when my first one died and my second one was delivered emergency C-section. To say my son never exsisted is cruel. I believe if you name a child and have a funeral, then they were living and that needs to be recognized. In an abortion, you don’t have a funeral, usually not a name, you don’t deliver your baby, you don’t hold your baby, you don’t go home and have to put all your baby stuff away. Unless you have been through it, you don’t know what your talking about. I wanted my child and he should be recognized.

April June 19, 2008, 9:26 AM

“Yeah, if it’s not born living, I don’t see why it gets a birth certificate.”

How incredibly insensitive and ignorant. To many people, a child is considered “living” as soon as he is conceived. How dare you say that because the child wasn’t born breathing, he wasn’t alive?

Jenefer June 20, 2008, 11:23 PM

violate abortion rights???? What about the rights of the mothers who loose the life of a child they wanted! I have never understood how people say a fetus is not a child because it has never taken a breath of air. It has a heart that beats just like yours and mine. What happens if that heart stops beating? the same thing that would happen to you if your heart stoped.

AngelMommy June 27, 2008, 9:52 AM

“Yeah, if it’s not born living, I don’t see why it gets a birth certificate.”

You are incredibly selfish and insensitive! How about you go through labor knowing that your baby is dead and then we’ll tell you your nine months of pregnancy and 20 hours of labor don’t count because your child wasn’t alive? That even though you knew your baby and had a funeral for your child that they were never really a person?

I don’t understand the issuing of death certificates without birth certificates. Issuing a death certificate proves that the government considers the baby to have been alive, so why not issue a birth certificate too? If you have to take a breath of air to be considered alive and get a birth certificate, why does a stillborn get a death certificate if according to this crazy logic they were never alive? You can’t be dead if you weren’t alive!

This has confused me since my daughter’s stillbirth. Why are they so quick to acknowledge her death, but refuse to acknowledge her life? How can they call her dead if they say she was never alive? I don’t want a death certificate unless she gets a birth certificate too.

Anonymous July 31, 2008, 8:18 PM

While I can sympathise with the grief parents must feel when an infant is born still, I disagree that issue of a birth certificate is appropriate.

As an adoptee, I am not “entitled” to have my birth certificate, only the one issued with legalized lies that claim my adopters are my parents. Where is my validation thru a piece of paper? My name was altered and the names of my family deleted, it’s all wrapped up and sealed away like the state’s most valuable top secret.

Twice as many states have legalized pot than the number that have open record access.

Are stillborns more worthy of a birth certificate than millions of adoptees?

Marley July 31, 2008, 8:41 PM

Birth certificates create a legal status of personhood. The same legislators who support birth certificates for stillborns, deny birth certificate access to the already living—millions of adopted persons in the US today. Where’s the outrage in that? Don’t adoptees hold personhood?

lj August 1, 2008, 2:38 PM

In terms of Roe v. Wade, it’s not whether there’s a life that is the issue. That cannot and is not denied with or without a birth certificate. It’s whether that life is a person in the legal sense.

With regard to birth certificates, adopted citizens in 44 states are denied unfettered, access to their own birth certificates, equal to the access granted to the non-adopted. No other group of citizens, not even those given up for adoption but not adopted, are denied this. Adopted citizens need to be treated equally under the law.

Stephanie September 8, 2008, 10:23 PM

Well in some states they do issue a birth cirtificate to stillborn babys.I live in ohio and i had a beautiful baby girl at 21 weeks, she was my little angel and I did have a birth cirtificate from the hospital.I think parents of stillborn babys should get one it’s only right.They think u shouldnt, but that baby was still born.Its not like it never happened.

Paige October 26, 2008, 9:49 AM

To clarify some items, the “birth certificate” we are seeking is not a LIVE birth certificate. It is a separate document entitled “Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth”. It will not increase fraude because it is not a live birth certificate.

As for those that don’t think the government should be involved….too late. They are involved throughout our lives….birth certificates, SS cards…so why not a CBRS?

Less than 70yrs ago, states use to issue both a birth and death certificate for fetal death. Their reason for stopping this practice was for medical reasons. They wanted a separate fetal death certificate so they could track these deaths and uncover the reasons behind the high statistics.

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