Florida just passed the “Grieving Families Act” that allows a parent to obtain a certificate of nonviable birth for a miscarriage between 9 and 20 weeks. At first blush this seems about helping families with closure and I guess this is why it received almost unanimous support across party lines, after all who doesn’t want to help grieving parents? I think it could be the start of something very sinister dressed up as comfort. Here’s why.
First of all you need to know something about me. Not only have I been in obstetrics and gynecology for 25 years I lost a baby at 22 1/2 weeks. I have experienced both sides of this issue, the medical and the personal, first hand.
The phrasing “nonviable birth” bothers me. A lot. A loss before 20 weeks is not a birth it is a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. Birth sounds more like “baby” and the primary goal of anti choice politicians and lobbyists is to change the goal posts. The best way to get people to think viability is 22 weeks or 20 weeks or whatever it isn’t is to introduce the false idea that what happens before 20 weeks is the premature delivery of a non viable full formed baby. In fact, if there is no name provided the name entered will be “Baby.”
Using incorrect terminology is no different that using the term “personhood” or “pain capable.” Making up pseudomedical OB/GYN terms is dangerous and many people (including the Florida legislature) won’t get the difference and that is, of course, the point.
The Gestational Age
If your goal is to help families grieve why not all families? Most pregnancy losses happen before nine weeks so this law actually misses the bulk of miscarriages. This right here tells me the closure aspect is pure bullshit and nothing more than a smoke and mirrors strategy. If your goal is to provide a distinction at 9 weeks then this law accomplishes that quite nicely. This is a preamble to a fetal cardiac activity (i.e. “heart beat” bill). If we’ve already established legally that there is a distinction at 9 weeks then it would seem to me easier to take the next step in banning abortion at 9 weeks and beyond.
The State is Recording This Information
How does recording a loss help families recover from grief? This will be public information. Since this isn’t mandatory no reliable or medically useful demographics could be obtained. If every miscarriage were recorded one could say this might be a way to track negative outcomes after outbreaks. For example, early losses due to an infection like Zika. Recording data from some miscarriages at a state level makes no sense.
Speaking of some data the bill mentions what won’t go into the public record, but will other data be tracked and kept in a non publicly accessible manner? It doesn’t say.
The Exclusion of Pregnancy Terminations
If your goal is to help people with a loss, meaning this is pure empathy and sympathy, then why exclude a termination due to genetic malformations or maternal health? Those losses are very much grieved.
Verification by Health Care Practitioner
On page 2 it says this:
“Nonviable birth” means an unintentional, spontaneous fetal demise occurring after the completion of the 9th week of gestation but prior to the 20th week of gestation of a pregnancy that has been verified by a health care practitioner.”
Why does it need to be verified? How does this help?
Getting doctors and hospitals used to the idea of tracking miscarriages bothers me. We already have had doctors and social workers report patients for suspected self abortions so the idea of elevating miscarriage observance is troublesome. If this is about grief why have a middle woman?
What if you ordered misoprostol online and did a home clandestine abortion and then your partner asks for a miscarriage certificate so you go to a doctor for one, but the doctors gets suspicious and contacts the police?
The government is not recording “the cause of death of the fetus.”
Well, that’s great because it is medically nonsensical. Determining the cause of a single miscarriage is impossible so why even mention it at all? Are the legislators that stupid or did they actually think about it? I guess if I were looking for data blips that might tell me about illegal abortion I might have thought along these lines as well. If I were looking at how to criminalize women for illegal procedures I might also toy with the idea of a cause of death. At the least it shows no one knows anything about loss, but it makes me wonder if there were other, more sinister ideas.
If the goal is to help people deal with a pregnancy loss then you would include every loss before 20 weeks and you wouldn’t exclude women with terminations of wanted pregnancies. You also wouldn’t track anything or get physiicans or hositals involved. In addition, the language is just wrong.
Calling a miscarriage a nonviable birth is the hallmark of another agenda. This is the thin edge of a very dangerous wedge.