Trenton – In response to the lack of resources for parents following a stillbirth, the Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Dawn Addiego, which would establish the Stillbirth Resource Center, the Regional Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Committee, and other programs for the prevention and reduction of stillbirth.
“The loss of a child through stillbirth is a devastating and traumatic event for many families, but this type of loss is not widely recognized, leaving families with little support and resources to cope with this tragic loss,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “The cause of stillbirths is not widely known, making them difficult to prevent. Additionally, most medical providers lack the resources needed to aid parents suffering from the loss of their child. These programs will provide educational tools for both expecting parents and for medical professionals in order to ensure they are equipped to assist grieving parents following a stillbirth.”
In addition to establishing the “Stillbirth Resource Center” within a State medical school, the bill, S-2078, would amend the “Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act,” to expand the list of health care professionals responsible for communicating to a mother and family the status of a fetus when a stillbirth occurs, as well as informing and coordinating staff to assist with labor, delivery, and postpartum procedures.
Current law requires that a physician be assigned primary responsibility to provide these services and carry out these duties. The bill would provide that a certified nurse-midwife may also be assigned this primary responsibility and that the assigned health care professionals could transfer these responsibilities to another licensed or certified health care professional, if the transfer is necessary to ensure that labor, delivery, postpartum, and postmortem care services are provided in a timely and compassionate manner.
“Stillbirths are much more common than many of us would like to believe, with 1 in every 160 births resulting in a stillbirth,” said Senator Addiego (D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden). “It is evident that this loss is a prevalent problem for expecting parents, and it is imperative that we work to educate them and the surrounding community on stillbirths. Creating a center dedicated to stillbirth research and education is not just vital in reducing the risk of stillbirths, but also eliminating the longstanding racial, ethnic, age and educational disparities that exist among expectant mothers.”
As amended, the legislation would establish the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Committee in the Department of Health (DOH), which would be tasked with establishing certain fetal and infant death reporting requirements, reviewing reported cases of fetal and infant death, and producing analyses and recommendations related to the causes of and ways to prevent fetal and infant death.
The bill would further require the Department of Health (DOH), in consultation with the “Stillbirth Resource Center” established under the bill, to develop a program to educate the public and health care professionals about stillbirths and to promote research on treatment options to eliminate the preventable causes of stillbirth. The program would be developed no later than 180 days after the effective date of the bill.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 40-0.