New Pennsylvania Law Allows Birth Certificates for Stillborns

In 2005, Heidi Kauffman was pregnant with her third child and went to her doctor for a routine exam. She was slightly concerned because her baby, who had been kicking quite frequently, had suddenly stopped doing so. The doctor gave her the terrible news: her baby had died inside of her. Doctors then induced labor and Kauffman gave birth to a stillborn. In tears she asked the doctor when she would receive the birth certificate. The response shocked her: she would not. Instead, she received a death certificate.

“I felt awful,” Kauffman told YahooNews!, “to some it seemed like only a piece of paper, but without it, I felt as though people were saying he never existed”. This started Kauffman on a determined crusade for parents of stillborn’s to be allowed birth certificates. This was met by much opposition however, for the state of Pennsylvania was afraid that by giving birth certificates to stillborns, they were making a statement on when life truly began and thus this would seem like a movement against pro-choice activists.

However, Pennsylvania Governor John Corbett signed the bill last week and made a formal statement that the law does not seek to answer the extreme question of: If a baby is born dead, did it live? Rather, the law is simply to give closure to parents who had already formed a bond with their unborn baby. Kauffman stated that the last thing she had in mind when seeking a birth certificate was politics. She continued, “I was just appalled that I could hold that perfect beautiful baby, and the state would say he never existed.”

Since her crusade, 19 states have passed the law but Heidi was waiting out for her own state, Pennsylvania. Finally, thanks to Kauffman’s persistence and Governor Corbett’s actions, the law has passed in PA and the stillborn baby that the Kauffmans had planned to name Kail now has proof of existence.

Danielle Petersen

Photo © Harrisburg Patriot-News

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