Louisiana Wants to Issue ‘Commemorative Certificates’ for Miscarriages

The document, a Republican-proposed idea, would include a “disclaimer” that this is not actually a birth certificate and “has no legal effect.”

Louisiana Wants to Issue ‘Commemorative Certificates’ for Miscarriages
Photo:Gerald Herbert, File (AP)

A Republican lawmaker wants to turn miscarriages into another data point the state collects about you, in an obvious move toward recognizing fetal personhood.

A Louisiana lawmaker introduced a bill that will begin issuing a “commemorative certificate of miscarried child” as a vital record collected by the state. State Rep. Raymond Crews (R) introduced a bill that allows doctors to “advise” a patient of their right to request a “commemorative certificate” for the miscarriage. The certificate can include the name provided by the patient or Baby Boy/Girl LastName and gender, if known. The certificate will include a “disclaimer” that this is not a birth certificate and “has no legal effect.”

This comes a little over a week since the legislature decided not to clarify that miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies are exempt from the state’s strict abortion ban—and two weeks after the state said pregnancies resulting from rape and incest aren’t exempt either. Louisiana is a part of the belt of Southern states where not only is abortion access is basically non-existent, but where it’s also hellacious to be pregnant in general.

This version of the bill would let doctors, midwives or other providers discuss the possibility of this certification. An earlier version of Crews’ legislation actually went further, making it a requirement. The bill—making the miscarriage certificate essentially a suggestion, but still available—has been already approved by the Louisiana House and the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.

Now, the Senate must vote before it goes to the desk of anti-abortion Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), where he’s likely sign it. Last month, Edwards supported enacting exceptions for rape and incest in the state’s abortion ban, but he signed the bill criminalizing abortion providers with up to a decade in prison if and when Roe was overturned. They didn’t put exceptions into that bill, and now Louisiana has one of the nation’s most strict abortion laws on record. (Luckily he can’t run for reelection immediately due to term limits, but there’s nothing stopping Edwards from waiting a term and then running again.)

The miscarriage certificate cannot be used as evidence in a civil legal case against someone “for bodily injury, personal injury, or wrongful death of a miscarried child”—or what sure sounds like someone participating in or getting an abortion. But there’s nothing in the legislation about the miscarriage being used in criminal proceedings.

While the certificate explicitly says it’s not a record of “live birth,” a trend of homicide charges or child endangerment charges against people who have abortions or miscarriages are only becoming more prominent. Five states this year considered bills to prosecute abortions—which are needed sometimes when miscarriages aren’t naturally completed—as homicide. In Alabama, a 24-year-old woman is being held on a six-figure bond on suspicion of chemical endangerment of a child after she gave birth to a stillborn at a hospital earlier this month.

People who need assistance self-managing a miscarriage or abortion can call the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline at (833) 246-2632 for confidential medical support, or the Repro Legal Helpline at (844) 868-2812 for confidential legal information and advice.

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