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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Increased legal recognition for stillborn babies in Western Australia

A 7-week-old baby shows off fingers which are beginning to
separate and will be fully distinct by week 8. Photo via the
Endowment for Human Development.
Malessa B., an Australian supporter of Secular Pro-Life, recently sent us an article from Perth Now about a family's successful campaign to obtain legal recognition for second-trimester stillborn babies:
[T]he WA Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages will formally recognise babies lost between 12 to 19 weeks following Mrs Worthington’s campaign after she lost her child at 13 weeks.
“I wasn’t prepared for how developed he was. He was a fully formed little human being. We would have named him Blake,” she said.
“As far as the world is concerned, if you have a miscarriage and the child is under 20 weeks you’re expected to flush it down the toilet,” Mrs Worthington said.
“(But) once you reach the second trimester, that baby is fully formed with fingers, toes, organs and a heart beat. How can it not be a baby?
“A certificate might just be a piece of paper but that recognition is important.”
The new laws have been backed by Attorney-General Michael Mischin and the Stillborn and Neonatal Death Support Group, and are similar to current legislation in Queensland and New South Wales.
Perhaps the most stunning thing about this article is that it actually includes a photo of Blake. I cannot imagine that happening in any American mainstream media outlet, given the obvious implications for abortion. (We're not embedding the image for copyright reasons, but you can honor Blake's legacy by viewing the family photo here.)

I'm not sure why the drafters of the legislation chose 12 weeks as the cut-off, or why they insisted on a cut-off at all. If the purpose is to provide solace to grieving families, there's no good reason to distinguish between miscarriages and stillbirths. Queensland already offers "In Loving Memory" certificates without regard to gestational age.

Even if it's legitimate to recognize only those babies who, like Blake, died after developing "fingers, toes, organs, and a heartbeat," the legislation still misses the mark. Those milestones are met by 8 weeks, 8 weeks, 8 weeks, and 3-4 weeks, respectively.

But I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Mrs Worthington or her family, whose dedication has made significant progress possible. Thanks to their efforts, far more children qualify for stillbirth certificates than under the prior law. And perhaps, little Blake will spark some conversations about when humanity begins.

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