Campaign for Rights of Stillborn Babies

  • 20-08-11

scales.jpgIn 1979, the UK’s Angela Roberts gave birth to twin girls at 28 weeks gestation:  Natalie was placed in intensive care and survived. Tragically, tiny Natasha did not.

Unfortunately, Angela’s devastating grief was further exacerbated by the manner in which she and Natasha were then treated. Angela was placed in a ward with mothers with their living, healthy babies, at a time when she could not even have her surviving baby with her.

The hospital also offered to bury Natasha for a fee: “This made me hysterical,” recalls Angela. “I couldn’t bear the thought of my baby just being chucked away. Thankfully, my parents handled this whole matter for me.”

Angela asked the hospital staff many times if she could see Natasha, and as a Catholic she also requested the last rights for Natasha. Both requests were refused, with the reason given that Natasha was born dead. This tormented Angela for many years. And years later, she learned that Natasha had, in fact, died a few minutes after her birth yet she was registered as a stillbirth.

This has all led Angela to establish “I Have Rights Too”: a driving force that is fighting for all UK stillborn babies’ rights to an official birth and death certificate, as well as fighting for better treatment and support of the parents.

At present, in the UK a baby born at 24 weeks gestation is medically termed an ‘abortion’ or ‘miscarriage’ and not a birth. This does not differentiate whether the baby is born alive or dead. If a baby is born still, there is only an entry of stillbirth documented: there are no birth and death certificates.

“We feel that this is wrong and needs to be addressed,” says Angela. “Our hope is that we can force the government to change the law regarding this. We believe every woman who has given birth from 24 weeks onwards, even if the baby is stillborn, has a right to a birth certificate and death certificate no matter what. To just have given birth to a stillborn baby is traumatic enough for both parents. But then to just be given a certificate of stillbirth adds insult to injury.”

Angela is reminding parliament that, regardless of the fact that a baby was born still, the mother has given birth. Therefore, the mother should be entitled to a Birth Certificate. Also, this way the baby will, by law, be able to be named and the birth will be legally registered: the healing power from being able to name and register one’s baby will surely help parents with their grief.

Angela has been campaigning tirelessly. She wrote to every UK Member of Parliament, and many have offered to support and back her campaign. The Right Hon. Chris Heaton-Harris MP initiated this official debate in Parliament, on May 18th 2011. You can view the debate here

If you would like to show your support for this cause, and find out more about it, please visit Angela’s website

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