A new Florida law will allow the state to issue what are in essence birth certificates to women who've had miscarriages, making it the first state to do so. The "certificates of nonviable birth" will only be given to women who request them.
When a woman miscarries after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it's legally classified as a stillbirth in Florida. A death certificate is issued and the woman can ask for a birth certificate. This new law creates similar rules for earlier pregnancies, allowing women who miscarry from 9 to 20 weeks of pregnancy to request a "certificate of nonviable birth." The law specifies that the document must say that it's not proof of birth.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the Grieving Families Act on Wednesday, and it will go into effect July 1.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Bob Cortes, said the only intention behind the measure was to allow parents to obtain a certificate when they lose a child. "It's not something that's being mandated. It's not required for everybody to do. We're not defining life," he told ABC News.
Still, the law was opposed by the Florida National Organization for Women (NOW), which told ABC News the law was a small step toward "denying women reproductive freedom."
Mandating legal rights for unborn fetuses has long been a strategy of the pro-life movement to establish personhood before birth, and issuing documents closely resembling birth certificates straddles the line. Calling it a "certificate of nonviable birth" recognizes that the fetus wasn't viable, meaning it couldn't survive outside the womb, but it does classify a miscarriage as a birth.
While Florida's Grieving Families Act is optional for women, it is in the same vein as states such as Texas proposing legislation that would force women to bury or cremate a fetus that was aborted.
Recognizing unborn fetuses as people in any way sets a precedent allowing anti-choice lawmakers to give them even more rights, which inevitably makes it more difficult for women to make choices about their own bodies.