In response to the lack of resources for parents following a stillbirth, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Dawn Addiego, which would establish the “Stillbirth Resource Center” and other programs for the prevention and reduction of stillbirths.

“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). “Many medical providers lack the tools needed to respond to the parents’ physical, emotional and social needs following a stillbirth. Through establishing the Stillbirth Research Center, our hope is that we can educate the community about stillbirths and ensure that medical professionals across the state are better equipped to address the needs of grieving parents following this loss.”

The bill, S-2078, would amend the “Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act,” to expand the list of primary 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.

“Approximately 1 in every 160 births results in a stillbirth and yet, society is largely unaware of how prevalent this problem is,” said Senator Addiego (D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden). “Additionally, there are longstanding racial, ethnic, age and educational disparities that currently exist, with African American women experiencing stillbirth two to three times more than other racial groups. Creating a center dedicated to stillbirth research and education is vital in reducing the risk of stillbirths across the state for all expectant mothers.”

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.

Under the bill, the “Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act” would be amended to require the Department of Health, 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 committee by a vote of 8-0.

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