floridaFlorida 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 Language

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.

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  1. Once again, Dr. Gunter, you alert us to another legislative act that takes us further down the road to making abortion illegal while masquerading as being something to help women. It’s maddening and vile and sickening. As BOOSTICK comments so eloquently, if they really wanted to help babies there are many, many actions that would truly help pregnant women and babies and children already on this earth. But of course that’s not the real goal of these fetus freaks — it’s all about controlling women and always has been.

  2. So they exclude terminations? Well that leaves out an awful lot of people.
    And why would any of this be public record? Records of everything else are available only to patients or for stillborn (post 20 weeks) then both parents can access them.
    The only other people who see it are with public health and they gather info (without names) for data research–state, country, and then for WHO.
    The causes part I understand since they track chromosomal defects, send placentas out for pathology (finding clots, infections, many things), and to track molar/partial molar pregnancies, plus rates of problems among women with various conditions like diabetes. This usually is only seen by academic researchers in public health who do not give a damn about names. Just health.
    Now since the Florida bill has been written with so many odd suspicious parts, it is possibly being used to make inroads to abortion. Which makes me incredibly sad. I don’t worry about it here in Canada, too many rock solid supreme court cases affirming women’s right to choose. But it’s terrible that it has to happen in the US

  3. “If the goal is to help people deal with a pregnancy loss then you would include every loss before 20 weeks”

    Exactly. That’s one of the big giveaways of their true intent. These people are misogynistic foetus fetishists, the don’t care about “babies”, their goal is to control women.

    If they really cared about mothers and babies they’d support social programs that help low income families, they’d be in favour of paid maternity and paternity leave. They would get behind the drive to cut rates of preventable stillbirths, to tackle the shockingly high rate of neonatal and maternal deaths.

    If they wanted to cut abortion rates they’d ensure that all children receive ongoing, age-appropriate sex, health and relationship education, and would make contraception available to everyone, free of charge, and they’d educate the public (and set-in-their-ways medical professionals) about the benefits of LARCs. They’d increase access to emergency contraception (including copper IUDs), and sexual health clinics would be accessible to all – again, free of charge.

    That’s how we know that all they care about is controlling and punishing girls and women, because they don’t give a toss about babies once they’re crowning. Thank you, once again, for cutting through their bullsh*t.

  4. I had two miscarriages; one at 16 weeks, and the other at approximately 18 weeks. There is absolutely nothing about this ludicrous certificate that would have assuaged the grief I felt at these losses or given me “closure.” Pull the other one, Florida.

  5. Here’s what I think. Statistically, if you can get someone to agree to something small (like a tiny sticker in a window asking people to drive safely on your street), you are more likely to get that same someone to agree to something bigger, like a lawn sign. It’s how people were able to excuse creeping atrocities in Weimar Germany up to (and in some case including) the so-called Final Solution. If you can get people to normalize the smallest thing, they’re more susceptible to buying the bigger thing.

    So, I say all of that to say this: if you can convince a group of people that a fetus at 9 weeks’ gestation is a “baby,” because there are pieces of paper that say so, then you can start arguing that said “baby” is also a person … and effectively enslave a pregnant woman to the contents of her uterus.

    This is the beginning of that creep in Florida.

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