Thursday, April 12, 2007

The full AP Wire story

Because for some reason the Santa Fe New Mexican hasn't published this online, yet—even though it appears on the front page of their print version.

SANTA FE — Gov. Bill Richardson is drawing criticism for vetoing a bill that supporters say would help families coping with a stillbirth [or miscarriage].

However, Planned Parenthood of New Mexico and other critics of the measure contend it might have undermined abortion rights in the state. They urged the governor to veto the proposal. The state Department of Health also recommended a veto.
The legislation would have allowed the parent of a stillborn to obtain a "certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth" from the state as well as a "certificate of fetal death."

Currently, hospitals or the medical examiner must file a report of "spontaneous fetal death" with the state Health Department's Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics. The agency will provide a copy of the report at the request of parents.

But there's no provision in current law for any birth record to go to parents coping with the loss of a pregnancy, said Carin Dhaouadi of Albuquerque, who worked on the legislation.

She said the proposed legislation wasn't intended to affect abortion rights in New Mexico.
"Some people think this could be a controversy — pro-life, pro-choice. But it can't," said Dhaouadi. "For ... us and a lot of other mothers, it's not that issue."

Dhaouadi, who had a stillborn daughter a year ago, recalls calling the state to try to obtain a copy of the death report.
"I called there, and the lady that I spoke to ... told me I didn't have a baby, that I had a fetus even though my daughter died four days before her due date," said Dhaouadi.

She and Halo Golden of Los Alamos, another supporter of the measure, complained that the governor's staff never asked them questions about the legislation, despite their repeated calls to the Governor's Office to inquire whether it would be signed or vetoed.

The legislation would have applied to stillbirths, which the measure defined as deaths occurring after the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy or when the fetus weighted 500 grams or more.
Richardson, in his veto message last week, said the term "fetal death" rather than "stillbirth" is used by health agencies for statistical reporting.

The bill "would require production of two documents for a single event — both a certificate of fetal death and a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth. Having two documents for a single vital event can lead to confusion and potential fraud, and is not sound policy," Richardson said in the veto message.

Deborah Busemeyer, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, said Tuesday that the bill created the potential for insurance fraud because it would have required the agency to issue the certificate of birth to parents retroactively if they presented medical records of a stillbirth. Parents could have sought a certificate without regard to how long ago the death occurred.
Busemeyer said it was inappropriate to have the department's vital statistics staff try to verify the medical records. There were 84 fetal deaths reported in New Mexico in 2005.

Joanne Cacciatore, chief executive officer of the Arizona-based MISS Foundation, which supported the measure, said Richardson's reasons for vetoing the bill were "nonsensical."

"He's worried about fraud. That's odd. We passed the bill in 19 other states and this has never come up. It's a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth. Exactly what kind of fraud can you perpetrate with that," she said.

Martha Edmands, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, said the legislation could have had "unintended consequences" on a woman's right to an abortion.

If the state issued a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth, she said, "you're conferring personhood on the fetus at that point."

Jane Wishner, of the Southwest Women's Law Center in Albuquerque, said, "It would require that women, who have just miscarried well into their pregnancies, be told they could request a certificate of birth for their fetus even though they never gave birth to a child. We think that is very inappropriate and adds trauma to an already traumatic moment."

The vetoed bill is SB17.

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