Oklahoma Senate passes bill protecting rights of grieving families

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Senate passed Lily’s Law, a bill designed to protect the rights of grieving families.

Healthcare providers are required by a 2019 law to inform parents of their right to request fetal remains for private burial following a stillbirth or fetal death in pregnancies occurring at 12 weeks of gestation or later. However, families who lose a child in the first trimester are not provided the same choice.

Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, wrote Senate Bill 647 to extend the same courtesy to all grieving Oklahoma families who lose a child since a high number of miscarriages and fetal deaths occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to a State Senate news release.  

“Losing a child, no matter at what stage of pregnancy, is devastating for expectant parents and their families, but the loss is further magnified when medical facilities dispose of the infant’s remains without consulting with the family to see if they want to bury them,” Pugh said. “This is a deeply emotional issue between scientific definitions and family love. If a baby hasn’t fully developed in the womb, some medical professionals consider the remains medical hazardous waste that must be disposed of. However, to some grieving families, that was their child from the moment of conception who deserves a proper burial and funeral. Lily’s Law will ensure that all families have the opportunity to properly mourn their child and honor their life however they choose.”      

 A concerned mother who has lost two children to miscarriage requested the bill.

“The bill is named in honor of an Oklahoma family who lost their daughter, Lily Gianna, early in the first trimester in 2012. Overcome with shock and grief, the young couple did not realize they could ask for their daughter’s remains, nor did the facility offer the option. Had they known, they said they would have chosen to recover Lily’s remains and bury her,” the news release states.

The bill further clarifies the definition of fetal death and stillbirth in statute, and also subjects birthing centers and medical facilities to the same requirement to maintain a written policy for the disposition of a child’s remains after a stillbirth or fetal death as licensed hospitals.

Approximately 80 percent of all pregnancy losses occur within the first trimester or first 12 weeks, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists.

Around 10-20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage before the 20th week of gestation, and close to 24,000 babies, or 1 in 160 babies, in the U.S. are stillborn, which can occur after the twentieth week up through delivery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The bill now goes to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Rep. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany, is the bill’s author in the House.

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