SANTA FE—New Mexico joins 33 other states in changing the way stillbirths are treated. Gov. Susanna Martinez signed HB658 into law April 4, 2013.
The MISSing Angels Bill, as it has commonly been known in other states, establishes a Certificate of Still Birth to be issued by the Bureau of Vital Records to families upon request after a baby is stillborn.
Unlike other states, New Mexico’s bill also changes the reporting requirement to follow the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control.
Since 1980, New Mexico has been reporting fetal deaths at 500 grams. The new reporting requirement is set at 20 weeks, or 350 grams if gestational age is unknown. New Mexico was the last state in the nation to use the higher limit.
This change will affect research efforts into the causes of stillbirth, and New Mexico’s statistics will no longer be eliminated from statistical data for being an outlier.
There are approximately 30,000 stillbirths in the US every year. In nearly half of all late-term stillbirths a cause is never found, even after autopsy.
The new law allows women who have suffered a previous loss in the gap between 20 weeks and 500 grams to file a delayed report of fetal death with the Department of Health when proper documentation is presented. Medically, stillbirth is a fetal death after 20 weeks, the changes in this law will afford women who had previously suffered without any acknowledgement the opportunity to add their child to state records.
Certificates of Still Birth can be issued for losses previously filed with the Department of Health from 1980 to present. Where records have not included a name for the child, families will have the option of adding a name to the certificate.
Through the efforts of a small, dedicated group of activists—with support from The MISS Foundation—New Mexico will finally acknowledge the trauma and loss of stillbirth. Carin Dhaouadi, of Albuquerque, and Halo Golden, of Los Alamos, along with others, have been working to get this bill signed into law since 2007.
Dhaouadi’s daughter, Malak, was born still in 2006; Golden’s son, Jesper, was born still in 2003. Over the years, they have had help and support from countless other families who have suffered similar losses.
“This is a momentous day for grieving families in New Mexico,” Golden said.
“I have hope that through research and awareness fewer families will suffer the sadness of stillbirth,” Dhaouadi said.