Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reports of Fetal Death

We have asked Donna Dossey, the registrar, to keep all of the RFDs that she currently has on file until this legislation is passed and signed into law. To my knowledge, she has them as far back as 2004. She has agreed to keep them. Spread the word.

Thank you Ms. Dossey.

What does this mean? It means that if you live in New Mexico and suffered a stillbirth from 2004 to the present, you can still request and get a copy of the Report of Fetal Death for your child. Having the RFD will make getting a retroactive Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth easy. Without it, you may have to request your medical records and/or the funeral home records for the necessary documentation.

If you need help getting a copy of the Report of Fetal Death for your child, please contact Donna Dossey, Registrar, at the Office of Vital Records in Santa Fe. Or you can contact us for more information.

Pro-choice Opposition

Our meeting on May 16, 2007, with the local pro-choice groups went well, too, we think. The only two groups represented were Planned Parenthood (Martha Edmands) and the Southwest Women's Law Center (Jane Wishner). NARAL declined to attend.

We did a bit of educating while we were there. Ms. Wishner has been under the impression that we are talking about miscarriages. Really she was unclear as to the difference between a miscarriage and a stillbirth and where abortion fit in. We laid out the differences between the two types of loss and that abortion is, in fact, neither of those. They are all mutually exclusive occurrences. Ms. Edmands told us that her sister suffered a stillbirth 15 years ago, so I'm pretty confident she knows what we are talking about.

They have both said that if we can find the right language, they will agree to be neutral on the bill. That is what we want. Nothing more, nothing less. But they also said that if we find language they will be comfortable with we are likely to then alienate the pro-life side of the supposed argument. (Have I mentioned exactly how much I HATE that this issue has even come near the abortion debate? Well, I do, with a passion.)

They like some of the language in California's legislation (SB 850). Especially the part where the bill reaffirms abortion rights in California, but I made it pretty clear that our bill will not do that. This is not that issue. I wouldn't suggest that an education bill reaffirm abortion rights so why would i do it here? They are no more or less the same issue. We made it clear that we want to protect existing rights and define the uses and limitations of a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth. We can do both of those things without straying off-topic and outright reaffirming abortion rights in the state. If they want to reaffirm abortion rights, they can draft their own legislation to do just that. It doesn't belong on this bill.

They have made it clear that they do not speak for everyone in the Coalition for Choice, which includes NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico. Martha Edmands said that while the national office of Planned Parenthood might be coming out in a neutral position on the basic legislation, she doesn't have to follow their lead if we don't come up with the right language. So despite the recent articles in Stateline and the NY Times where several national offices publicly took a neutral position, we still have to deal with the state offices of these groups.

All in all, we feel like it was a good meeting. It was emotional and draining for both Carin and I, but they now have faces and details to go along with the issue. We were able to clear up some misconceptions and come to a tacit agreement.

Office of Vital Statistics

On May 7, 2007, Carin and I met with Donna Dossey, Registrar and Mike Landen,

We feel the meeting went well.

We found out they don't so much object to the two documents, but the foundation for making them retroactive as stated in SB17. We decided the best thing to do is to try to parallel the procedure that people have to follow in order to get a delayed Certificate of (live) Birth. There is a set list of documents that people must be able to present, we are to come up with a similar list. The documents will be used to re-create a Report of Fetal Death (or Certificate of Fetal Death) that will then generate a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth.

So far the list is pretty short since the documentation that accompanies a stillbirth is minimal, other than medical records. They are hesitant to accept either medical records or a letter from a physician because they have no way to and don't want to be in the business of verifying if those documents are valid or if the doctor is legitimate. Part of me understands this argument. The bigger part of me says, "That's crap." Last time I checked MDs have to have a medical license to practice. That license has to be on file with the state in which they practice. Really, how hard would it be to verify that a doctor is legitimate? Not all that hard, I'm guessing. We are still working on our list.

We were given a very long explanation of the process that a delayed registration of birth could go through. We were told that even with the appropriate documents, some cases are referred to the State's lawyers and some cases are even taken to court. The process can sometimes take a year or more. The impression I got from this explanation was that the person speaking didn't feel a still birth was worth going through so much for. That a still birth didn't warrant so much effort on the State's part. I let them know that my first, gut feeling on that was that they were, once again, belittling families and children affected by stillbirth. Dismissing us. We aren't worth going to court over.

We can't make a process that will serve every case or every person. Even the process of a delayed registration of live birth doesn't serve everyone, otherwise no cases would ever have to go to court to be decided by a judge. But we can and have to do our best to institute a process that will serve as many as possible. If those who are not served by it chose to pursue it in the courts, that is their decision, not the State's. The State doesn't get to decide which ones are "worth it" and which ones aren't.

We have come to understand that "issued" has a very specific meaning to a registrar. It implies that the document is printed on security paper and signed by the Registrar, etc. So in the regulations where it says a Report of Fetal Death "shall not be issued in any way," they are talking about officially issued, not a simple photocopy.

We have also come to understand that the current Registrar willingly gives out copies of Reports of Fetal Death because of the way she interprets the statute or regulation (it doesn't say she can't so she does). We would like, in the next version of the bill, to change that. We want it specifically stated that families can request and get a photocopy of the Report of Fetal Death (or Certificate of Fetal Death). We don't want this left to interpretation because what happens when the next registrar doesn't interpret it that way? Then families are denied the document because the current statutes don't say they *can* have one. We want it to be clear.

The Office of Vital Statistics has agreed to support the legislation so long as we can agree on a list of documents that to be used to prove the facts of the case when someone is seeking either a Certificate of Fetal Death or a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth retroactively.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

MISS Foundation PSA

I've just posted a link to the recent MISS Foundation Public Service Announcement. It was aimed straight at Gov. Richardson and his advisers.


It is very powerful and goes right to the heart of the matter. I suggest at least one tissue in hand when you watch it.