Pennsylvania law allows birth certificates for stillborn babies

By Dave Andrusko

Heidi Kauffman said she was "appalled that I could hold that perfect beautiful baby, and the state would say he never existed."

It made a pro-abortion legislator “nervous” but it brought closure to a mother who six years ago lost her unborn baby boy three weeks before he was due. On the third try, Pennsylvania passed a law, signed last week by Gov. Corbett that for the first time allows parents of stillborn infants to receive birth certificates. Pennsylvania now joins more than two dozen states with similar laws.

The law is not intended, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Amy Worden writes, to address “the existential question: If a baby is born dead, did it live?”

Instead “it addresses the absence of documentation by allowing parents to apply for a ‘certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth.’”

Worden’s very powerful account tells us the story of Heidi Kauffman and her husband, and the child they would name Kail.

Six years ago, pregnant with her third child, Mrs. Kauffman went to the doctor concerned because “her lively baby had turned oddly quiet.” The Kauffman’s received the worst possible news: their unborn son was dead.

Doctors induced labor, and the 7-pound boy Kauffman and her husband would name Kail was delivered stillborn,” Worden writes. “Racked with pain and guilt, Kauffman asked a nurse, ‘When do I get a birth certificate?’

“You won’t,” she was told. Instead, the Kauffmans received a death certificate. “I felt horrible,” Kauffman said last week from her home in Port Royal, northwest of Harrisburg. “I felt I’d let Kail down and my family.”

This tragedy launched Mrs. Kaufmann on a five-year crusade.

State Sen. Jake Corman, who sponsored the bill in each of the last three legislative sessions, told Worden,  “For Heidi, it was for a sense of closure.”

“People think it’s only a piece of paper, but it was kind of like saying he never happened,” Kauffman said. “I was pretty mad at the world, but I was appalled that I could hold that perfect beautiful baby, and the state would say he never existed.”

Unfortunately the bill set off alarms among pro-abortionists. It cleared the state Senate in separate sessions, Corman said, but got sidetracked in the House, was controlled by Democrats until this year.

The chairman of the state Government Committee, state Rep. Babette Josephs (D) had chosen not to move the legislation.

“Josephs, who supports abortion rights, said she feared a stillbirth law could be used by abortion foes to undermine legal abortion,” according to Worden. “But she said that even though the bill’s language made her ‘nervous,’ she sympathized with those who want a birth certificate and voted for the bill last month.”

Corbett spokeswoman Kirsten Page said Gov. Corbett signed the bill because it was important to help parents going through a “difficult and tragic loss.” An estimated 30,000 stillbirths occur each year across the nation. In 2009 there were 1,469 in Pennsylvania.

“Having a certificate is something that many grieving parents who have lived through stillbirth feel is important because it recognizes the life of their child,” Page said.

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Heidi Kauffman said she was “appalled that I could hold that perfect beautiful baby, and the state would say he never existed.”

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