Thursday, May 17, 2007

US: Stillborn laws entangled in abortion debate

Every year, some 35,000 women deliver babies who die just before or during birth. A number of parents say their grief over the tragic loss is made worse because most states simply issue death certificates, never recognizing the birth of their stillborn offspring.


But the movement has hit a political snag in some states, where abortion-rights activists have taken an interest in the issue because they say the laws could be hijacked by anti-abortion forces to establish so-called fetal personhood and erode a woman’s right to abortion. Doctors and public health officials also have expressed concern that the official documents could complicate states’ collection of vital statistics on births and fetal and infant deaths.


To get around the abortion issue, California lawmakers amended the stillbirth bill to call the document a “certificate of still birth,” rather than a “certificate of birth.” Lawmakers also added a clause affirming the California Constitution’s guarantee of a woman’s right to abortion.


But abortion-rights activists deny any opposition to the stillbirth laws.

“We are not opposing these bills. We are an organization that seeks to protect women’s ability to make their own choices throughout their pregnancy. If they want to have a certificate of stillbirth, we support them,” said Sondra Goldschein of the ACLU.

Representatives of national abortion-rights organizations, including the Guttmacher Institute, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and NARAL Pro-Choice America told they take a neutral position on the stillborn birth-certificate issue.

Still, state-level activists are working with lawmakers to ensure the bills do not contain language that could be used to restrict abortion access, said Melody Drnach, vice president of NOW. Unless stillbirth laws are carefully worded, they could have the “unintended consequence of compromising a woman’s rights,” she said.


As long as the sacrosanct right to abortion is not challenged!

How about stillbirth certificates for women who've had late-term abortions?

There's an interesting idea.

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