Miscarriage is almost always grief-filled, often traumatic, and an extremely personal and painful emotional loss. For some, it is a very private moment to grieve a life that could have been but never was. For others, the feelings are just as true and great as the death of a born and living child. Any emotion parents-to-be feel (even if in some case there is a smidge of relief) is valid, and their own, and any discomfort an outsider may feel when it comes to wanting to make a person grieving a miscarriage is valid, too.
Using that experience to try to push anti-abortion agendas? That’s unconscionable.
Kansas lawmaker Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), who recently tried to ban surrogacy in the state but was stopped when no one would pass her bill out of committee, has taken another swing at trying to force the people of Kansas to adhere to her own strict standards when it comes to pregnancy, birth and death. When Republican Rep. John Doll introduced a bill that he hoped would help parents after a stillbirth (term applied to the birth of a fetus that is not breathing and is more than 20 weeks gestational age), he hoped to change the regulations to allow a “certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth” despite the fact that there was no actual live baby to receive it.
Doll called the bill a “feel-good” measure meant to be non-political. But when it reached the senate Pilcher-Cook amended Cook’s bill without discussing it with him, and changed it so it would apply to any miscarriage at any point of a pregnancy. Even more disturbing, it also requires mandatory reporting of all miscarriages that either happen at a hospital or that are followed up with at a doctor’s office, in essence requiring all miscarrying people to report their failed pregnancies.
Pilcher-Cook states she didn’t change the implementation of Doll’s bill, since stillbirths can still get their certificates. But while those parents may receive solace for their losses, it at the same time removes the privacy from any other miscarrying parent, by mandating how she must deal with her loss by reporting the event either through the hospital or her doctor. For some, a “certificate” to mark a death would be harmful and even more traumatizing, and a mandatory reporting and gathering of statistics is a cold, clinical way to process their loss.
Pilcher-Cook’s intention is simple: ensure legally that every miscarriage is noted as the death of a baby or “unborn child,” in order to further talking points that a baby is equal to a fertilized egg and every moment in pregnancy development is exactly equal. What she really is doing, though, is potentially traumatizing those who want to mourn as is best for them personally.
I’ve written often about my own miscarriage, and how every person experiences the loss differently. When presidential candidate Michele Bachmann began discussing how her own pregnancy loss made her more anti-abortion, I came out with my own, completely opposite reaction. One thing I can say beyond a doubt, however, is that in my grief over the loss of a very wanted (and frankly, long sought out) pregnancy, the last thing I would have wanted was a certificate as a reminder of my loss.
Every person reacts differently to their loss, and the state should never mandate the proper way to grieve, especially when it is in essence a back door opening for granting legal rights to those who are in utero. Because in reality, that is the reason behind Pilcher-Cook’s amendment, and the reason Doll was saddened that someone took his “feel-good” bill and made it political. As Guttmacher’s Elizabeth Nash told Think Progress: ”The whole point is to further the idea of the fetus as a person… At the end of the day, this is not the way to go to provide support for a woman who has had a later miscarriage. This doesn’t make up for the loss of a wanted pregnancy, and could also end up infringing on abortion rights.”
That states should stay out of reproductive decisions is already a given. But states should never, ever decided that they know best how to “help” a grieving parent heal.
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