Experiencing a miscarriage is one of the most devastating losses a woman can go through. What can make it even harder is that there is often no recognition of the child she has lost; even though her preborn baby was a living, separate human being who died in the womb, the loss isn’t commemorated the way the death of a born child is. According to the American Pregnancy Association, as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Yet there is still largely silence around the loss; families have to largely mourn alone.
In one state, a new law may change that.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts just signed LB 1040, a bill that will honor lives lost before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Jennifer and Andy Sommers have been campaigning for such a bill after losing three babies of their own to miscarriage. “When it’s under 20 weeks or in the first trimester, it often times feels really invalidated and very lonely and isolating,” Jennifer said. Andy also explained that this was an issue that affects fathers, adding, “Throughout this journey, it’s been amazing to see not just moms coming together but dads coming together, as well.”
A prior 2008 law allowed parents to receive a commemorative certificate for families who suffered a stillbirth after 20 weeks of pregnancy; this allows families with a loss earlier in pregnancy to receive the same certificate honoring the life of their little one, and it is retroactive. The certificate will include the child’s name, and gender if it is known. Families would request a certificate through their doctor, who would sign a form from the Department of Health and Human Services. The family then mails it to the department, who sends the certificate in return for only the cost of creating the certificate — a mere $17. It is not required for families to request one after a miscarriage.
“We believe this legislation is an important step towards recognizing the dignity of every human life while simultaneously providing closure and healing to grieving families,” said Nate Grasz, Policy Director at the Nebraska Family Alliance.
A similar law was passed in Florida, but Florida requires the loss to happen after nine weeks of gestation, while Nebraska has no minimum qualification. Gov. Ricketts also maintained that the bill is about honoring the humanity and dignity of preborn children. “Senator Albrecht’s bill helps Nebraska families recognize the dignity of their baby who passes away before birth,” Gov. Ricketts said in a press release. “This bill not only affirms the pre-born baby’s dignity, it also provides closure to mothers, fathers, and families who are grappling with the pain and heartache of losing a child.”
“Nebraska is the first in the country to offer this type of certificate that recognizes the existence of pre-born children, and is both retroactive and requires no minimum gestation,” Senator Albrecht said. “It warms my heart to be able to offer this certificate to grieving mothers and families to help with the healing process after the loss of a pre-born child.”