Pennsylvania Law OKs Birth Certificates for Stillborn Babies

State   |   Maria Vitale   |   Jul 12, 2011   |   12:52PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

It’s one of the greatest tragedies of life:  a pregnant woman, looking forward to welcoming a new life into the world, discovers her baby is stillborn. That heartache occurred six years ago for Heidi Kauffman, a resident of Port Royal, Pennsylvania. Her distress was compounded by the fact that the state refused to issue a birth certificate for her stillborn child.

But other Pennsylvania mothers will be saved from that pain, thanks to a new law which will permit parents of stillborn babies to be given birth certificates.

As state Senator Jake Corman told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “(Heidi) wanted a birth certificate. She carried (the baby) to term and gave birth to a child. There was no way to recognize that (before).”

Supporters of abortion opposed the legislation, but Corman said he’s mystified by the opposition, noting that the measure has no impact on current abortion law in Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania is home to the Abortion Control Act, a landmark piece of legislation which provides for parental consent, informed consent, and 24-hour waiting periods for abortion.)

More than two dozen other states have similar stillborn certificate laws. According to the Inquirer, some 30,000 babies are stillborn each year in the U.S., including nearly 1,500 in the Keystone State.

A spokeswoman for pro-life Governor Tom Corbett, Kirsten Page, told the Inquirer, “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.”

Yet, it took some five years of struggle to get the legislation passed. The law becomes effective September 5.

It may seem like a little thing, a piece of paper recognizing a stillborn child. But Heidi Kauffman has devoted years to the legislative campaign, and she promises to be the first in line to obtain a certificate.

Now, Kauffman, along with other mothers throughout the Commonwealth, can receive a bit of comfort, knowing that the state recognizes the obvious—that a stillborn child is still a child, and that the baby’s life should be honored. Note: Maria Vitale is an opinion columnist for She is the Public Relations Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and Vitale has written and reported for various broadcast and print media outlets, including National Public Radio, CBS Radio, and AP Radio.