Help New York Support Families of Stillborn Children

Posted: August 23, 2019

An Op-Ed from Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R, C, Ref – Mahopac)

Assemblyman Byrne with family and friends supporting “Team Teddy” at the STAR Legacy Foundation’s Let’s Not Be Still Festival earlier this year

With our state’s legislative session adjourned until next year, lawmakers throughout New York are now meeting with constituents to solicit feedback, share ideas and plan for the upcoming session.  One idea I would like advance is the expansion of the state’s child tax benefit to cover mothers who have experienced the terrible loss of their child from a stillbirth pregnancy.

This past May, I traveled to the town of South Salem with family and friends to participate in the STAR Legacy Foundation’s Let’s Not Be Still Festival, 5K & Walk.  Like many people present, I had first truly learned about how much a family suffers from stillbirth by watching a close relative live through the traumatic experience.  Participating in the Let’s Not Be Still event not only supported my friends and family, but also enlightened me about the various challenges that families go through when faced with the loss of their child from stillbirth.

When a family suffers such a loss, they face many of the same painful unanticipated financial obligations as a family whose baby tragically died in his or her first year of infancy.  This includes additional costs to cover services for funeral/burial, autopsy, medical testing, mental health and counseling support, as well as additional time away from work.  

Stillbirth claims over 26,000 babies every year in the United States. That’s 26,000 mothers, fathers, and other respective family members who are affected by this terrible loss.  That equals to 1 in 160 pregnancies in the United States, or in other words 70 babies (a school bus full of children), every single day.

New York State currently offers a tax benefit to families with children.  It’s only fair that a tax benefit is extended to those families who experience a stillbirth during the year of their loss.  This tiny bit of financial relief would do more than simply assist with the various financial costs associated with their pregnancy and loss. It would also represent that the state of New York recognizes the loss that these families were forced to endure.

At the Let’s Not Be Still event, I spoke with my colleague Assemblyman David Buchwald of Bedford, who represents the people just south of the 94th Assembly District.  We briefly discussed his proposal (A.7468) to offer a special tax credit to assist these families who have suffered from a stillbirth.  After further research and discussion, I signed on as one of Assemblyman Buchwald’s first prime co-sponsors for A.7468.  Mr. Buchwald and I belong to different political parties, but we must not allow party politics to get in the way of supporting a good idea. I wholeheartedly support Assemblyman Buchwald’s effort to get his Stillbirth Tax Credit bill passed, and plan to do all I can to support him in making this special tax credit a reality here in New York state.

As we approach the upcoming legislative session in Albany, this proposal is something I will continue to fight for.  In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the challenges mothers and their families face during and after stillbirth, I encourage you to visit the STAR Legacy Foundation’s website at www.StarLegacyFoundation.org.