Senate approves Lily’s Law; protects rights of grieving families

Mike Seals - March 10, 2021 6:23 pm

Oklahoma Senate Education Committee Chairman Adam Pugh (R-Edmond)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Every day in Oklahoma, hundreds of pregnancies end in miscarriage and stillbirth.

While a 2019 law requires healthcare providers 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, families who lose a child in the first trimester are not given the same choice. Given the high number of miscarriages and fetal deaths that occur in the first 12 weeks, Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, wants to extend the same courtesy to all grieving Oklahoma families who lose a child.

“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.”

Pugh said the bill was requested by a concerned mother who has lost two children to miscarriage. While her family knew of their right to request their children’s remains and had them buried, she has learned through her work in a pregnancy and infant loss ministry that many families do not realize they can ask to have their baby’s remains.

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.

Senate Bill 647 further clarifies the definition of fetal death and stillbirth in statute. It also subjects birthing centers and medical facilities to the same requirement to maintain a written policy for the disposition of a child’s remains from a stillbirth or fetal death event as licensed hospitals.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists estimates that approximately 80% of all pregnancy losses occur within the first trimester or first 12 weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage before the 20th week of gestation. Close to 24,000 babies, or 1 in 160 babies, in the U.S. are stillborn, which can occur after the 20th week up through delivery.          

SB 647 now goes to the House. Rep. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany, is principal author in that chamber.


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