Florida will issue birth certificates for miscarriages now, but not everyone supports the idea

This week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the “Grieving Families Act,” which would essentially let the state of Florida issue a birth certificate for miscarriages. A miscarriage is when a fetus becomes non-viable before the 20th week of pregnancy. Although many states issue death certificates when it happens, Florida will be the only state to issue what is essentially a proof of birth, along with a chance to legally name the fetus.

According to both the Florida Democrats and Republicans who worked on the bill, this is mainly a way to provide mothers and families with some sense of closure after a miscarriage, since it’s often an emotionally wrought, terrible experience. But some opponents in the state — namely the National Organization for Women, which was the only organization to protest the bill — worry that issuing a birth certificate is a way of defining “life” that can later be used in the ongoing abortion debate in the state, and nationwide.

Republican Rep. Bob Cortes, the bill sponsor told the Associated Press, “I’ve made it clear since Day 1 that this was not intended to be anything other than to give parents an opportunity to obtain a certificate when they lose a child.” He noted that it’s not being mandated or required. “We’re not defining life,” Cortes said.

Issuing birth certificates for a miscarriage is pretty controversial.

Florida NOW president Terry Sanders said, “Unfortunately we were pretty much the only ones willing to step up on this bill in Tallahassee. We know the anti-choice movement has well thought these tiny steps toward their goal of denying women reproductive freedom.”

Planned Parenthood was neutral on the bill and Florida Democrats supported it across the board. Giving a family a way to mark the “life” and death of their expected newborn is a symbolic gesture. Florida NOW members and other opponents of the bill are rightfully fearful of calling a fetus’ fertilization a “birth.”

Florida’s abortion laws are some of the most restrictive in the country. Women have to get an ultrasound and a physician has to ask them if they want to see it before they can terminate their pregnancy, minors need permission from parents, and health plans don’t cover abortion unless the woman’s life is endangered or she’s been raped. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 70 percent of Florida’s counties have no abortion clinics at all. Recently, some anti-choice states have suggested other rituals for families such as burying fetuses after a miscarriage. The problem with burying an unviable fetus or giving it a date of “birth” is that it enforces an idea that terminating a pregnancy is akin to violently taking another person’s life. But abortion is not the same thing as murder.

Some women and families might be helped with the new bill. It’s one thing to mourn a loss, and if a piece of paper or memorial helps, so be it. As long as it’s a choice and the laws are backed by science.