My friend, Alicia Donathan, has graciously recorded and allowed us to share her experience with losing children. It is important that we read and become familiar with Alicia’s story because Bobby’s Law, or the West Virginia Grieving Parents Act, is modeled similarly after the law in Missouri, where Alicia now resides and where her two children have been laid to rest.
The WV Grieving Parents Act would create an optional program that would allow the state to issue a “Certificat of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth” for children who are miscarried, stillborn, or suffer spontaneous fetal death. In short, it permits the state to give a piece of paper to grieving parents, giving them the legal means they need to lay their child to rest. If passed, the WV Greiving Parents Act would be second only to Missouri out of 28 states that have such a measure. Missouri, and hopefully WV, are significant in that they make not provision for the gestational age or weight of the a child that has suffered a spontaneous fetal death, has been miscarried, or was still born. Alicia’s story highlights why that is important.
Also, while Alicia makes a great point about how this measure reaffirms current West Virginia law that extends personhood to a fetus (See, the Unborn Victim of Violence Act), it takes no position on when life begins. While science has already settled that question, the WV Grieving Parents act leaves that decision, ultimately, to the convictions of the parents.
For more on Bobby’s Law (the Grieving Parents Act) – including drafts of the legislation, a white paper, and an executive summary – please visit www.FamilyPolicyWV.com/Bobby.
I Am Thankful My State Let Me Grieve, WV Should Too
By Alicia Donathan
No parent should have to bury their child. This is something the Meador family knows too well. They know the pain of saying goodbye to a child to whom they only recently said hello. They share this pain with other West Virginia families, including my own.
I am a displaced West Virginian living now in Missouri. In July 2009, while living in St. Louis, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome in the midst of my first pregnancy. This serious condition resulted in my hospitalization and the subsequent emergency delivery of our daughter at just 25 weeks’ gestation. Our little one died 36 hours later in the NICU. We buried her on a Tuesday.
Then, five months later, I was pregnant again. Our joy and apprehension was soon overshadowed by doubt as early symptoms pointed to an ectopic pregnancy (implantation in the fallopian tube). When my doctor confirmed this, and I soon underwent surgery to remove the misplaced baby along with the tube. Following this loss, the hospital in St. Louis turned over our tiny baby’s remains to the cemetery, and we buried our second child alongside our first.
We never received any questions from the cemetery director. The hospital had no trouble releasing the remains to the cemetery. No birth or death certificate exists for our second child, but these were never required of us in order to bury him or her.
As a fellow grieving parent, I am distressed to learn of the trouble the Meadors had in giving their little Bobby a proper burial. I do not know what I would have done if the hospital or cemetery personnel had given us any resistance to burying our second child. I admire the Meadors’ strength and persistence in refusing to give up until their little one had been laid properly and respectfully to rest.
While no parent should have to bury their child, every parent should be able to bury their child. The Meadors’ struggle to do so raises questions: Why did the funeral director refuse to bury the child in the absence of a death certificate? Was this because of legal repercussions or simply because it was not customary? Why should the birth weight of a baby matter for the purposes of issuing a birth and/or death certificate? Why did Bobby Meador’s doctor not make an exception in this case?
About Jeremy Dys
Jeremy Dys is the FPCWV's President and General Counsel. In addition to his duties of providing strategic vision and leadership to the FPCWV, Dys is the chief lobbyist and spokesman. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives close to Charleston with his wife and growing family.