Child Death
Miscarriage > Parents Rights to Fetal Remains

Compiled & written by Cecelia McGregor
Inset article by Wendy Ponte, Mothering Magazine
Letter about Kansas Law from Dawn Meisenheimer Lewis

KotaPress Editor's Note

Because these articles were from several years ago, some of the links and email addresses no longer work. However, we feel that the information contained within this work is important and still on the minds of miscarriage parents. So we leave you with the bulk of the original work in place and apologize for old information that we were not able to find updates for along the way. ***If you happen to be Cece reading this or if you know Cece's current contact info, please email me!!***

Letter to KotaPress About Kansas Law

From an email dated March 13, 2007

Dear Kota Press,

I wrote ... to give you some news, and maybe encourage others in grief of miscarriage to use their grief for something good. A few months ago I called my state representative (Mike Kiegerl in the House of Representatives in Kansas). I asked him if he would be willing to introduce a bill which would guarantee a mother who had a miscarriage at any time of gestation the right to decide what happened to the remains.

He had a bill written within a week, and now it’s in a committee in the House. If the committee passes the bill, it is my hope that women will receive a piece of paper stating their right decide if the hospital should take care of the remains or if they will go to a funeral home for cremation or burial. The bill also states that the hospital can provide counseling or refer a woman to outside counseling. I was amazed how quickly the bill was written, and that within a few months I was testifying to members of the House. My representative told me that if it doesn’t go through this time, he will introduce it right away in the next session.

Blessings to you all!
Dawn Meisenheimer Lewis

From an email dated April 5th, 2008

Dear Kota Press,

I wanted to update on HB2341 in Kansas. The bill passed the House last spring, and has now passed the Kansas Senate. It awaits the governor’s signature. Here is my story below:

HB 2341, my "miscarriage bill" passed the house last March. I've been waiting for the Senate to pass the bill, and yes, today it passed! Now it only waits for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to sign it. In 2004, I went to my OB's regular appointment at 16 weeks along, and discovered our baby had no heartbeat. When I went to the hospital for a D&E five days later, I wasn't brave enough to ask for the baby's remains. I was in shock, and feared the response I'd get if I asked. The staff was very kind to me that day, and I went home to grieve.

Weeks later, I received a phone call which let me know our baby was a boy who had a normal set of chromosomes. There was no official reason why our baby died. I called the hospital to find out what happened to his remains, though I knew at this stage it was too late to ask. I probably made it uncomfortable for an L&D nurse when I asked what happened to my baby's remains after miscarriage. She didn't want to answer and became quite "snippy" on the phone. After prodding, she finally said, "it went out with the medical waste." Suddenly, I felt my baby was in a pile of surgical body parts somewhere. I was sure she was telling the truth, but felt the call could have been handled better. In reality, I should have asked early on.

Time passed, and I wanted to do something. I wrote the hospital to tell what had happened to me, noting that on the day of the surgery staff was wonderful but there was no counseling given, no phone numbers, my OB had offered medication but nothing more, I left with a pair of fuzzy hospital socks and a medical bracelet, but nothing more. I regretted not asking for the remains, and knowing my outspoken self, realized that in my shock I couldn't bring myself to ask.

I contacted my representative who got a copy of a bill to me very quickly after. The bill passed the Kansas House last year on the same day I had a sonogram which let me know that my baby (who is nursing as I type) didn't look like she had any problems though I had a positive blood screen for Trisomy 18 which is a fatal condition. Today, the bill passed the Senate. The bill, when signed, will require hospitals to just inform a woman that she has a right to decide what happens to the remains after miscarriage or treatment for miscarriage.

If someone had asked me, I would have said that I wanted the remains so I could bury them. The staff did the best they knew the day of my surgery, not realizing I wanted to ask and couldn't. This change in the law only requires a mother be informed, and that she have a chance to vocalize her wishes. It won't take away the pain of miscarriage, but it will provide for informed consent.

Dawn Meiseneheimer Lewis


The Right to Rest in Peace

From an email dated Wed, 05 Sep 2001

Hello Everyone.

I’m writing to share excellent news about the legislation that I have been lobbying for in Illinois, on behalf of parents who experience the death of a baby. Below is a recent article from Mothering Magazine that summarizes the legislation. I am also including the web site to access the text of the bill, if you are interested. The State of IL web site address where the bill is posted is:
[editor's note: this page appears to no longer be available online]

Governor George Ryan signed the bill on August 15, 2001.

Thanks to all of you for your ongoing support and prayers. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Representative Skip Saviano, the sponsor of the bill, as well as the National Share Office.

If anyone would like assistance in pursuing similar legislation in your own state, please feel free to contact me. My email address is
[editor's note: this email appears to no longer be current]

Cecelia McGregor, RN, BSN, CCM
Coordinator Illinois Bereavement Support Movement


The Right to Rest in Peace

By Wendy Ponte

Bulletins - Good News about Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting from Mothering Magazine - excerpted from September/October, 2001 Issue

This May, Illinois joined a handful of states with laws proclaiming a parent's right to bury a miscarried baby. HB0382, a Parent's Right to Fetal Burial Bill, was initiated by Cecilia McGregor of Minooka, Illinois, after her own 1998 miscarriage. Defined as a loss prior to 20 weeks gestation, a miscarried fetus does not receive any kind of funeral rights in a hospital, unlike stillborn babies. McGregor found this out when her baby lost its heartbeat at only ten weeks and she had a D & C. After the procedure, her questions about the disposal of her baby's remains were, at first, ignored. Finally, she was told the fetus would be buried by the hospital. In reality, the fetus's body had an all too common fate: it was dumped, along with medical waste, in the hospital's incinerator.

Why has fetal burial become such an important issue for parents?

"Families are bonding earlier with babies . . . Because of that bonding process, many acknowledge this is a baby much earlier," according to Cathi Lammert, the executive director of the National SHARE office, a nonprofit organization that assists families that have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. She says families that have a ceremony or otherwise respectfully dispose of a fetus are better able to reach closure and move through the grieving process.

Parent's Right to Fetal Burial passed unanimously in both the Illinois Senate and House. "One little baby can make a difference across a state and maybe across a nation," says McGregor of the impact her miscarriage has had on the law.

South Dakota, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Minnesota are among the states that already have variations of this legislation in place. Several other states including Kentucky, Michigan, Colorado, and Missouri are reviewing similar bills.

For additional information see
or call the National SHARE office at 800-821-6819.

July 2001 Note from KotaPress Editor

If you have read my other previous articles or if you know any of my work from KotaPress, then you know that I'm very outspoken about the rights of bereaved parents to express and process grief and healing in any way they wish. I haven't previously stepped into any controversy about when a fetus becomes a child nor why we continue to get fetal death certificates rather than birth certificates for our children.

But the following letter and press release are about one controversy I am going to step into, and I'm going to ask any of you readers who have information that could help with this research to step forward, too.

Let me just say the following: My son was stillborn at 39 weeks. He was perfect except that he wasn't breathing. He was 6 lbs, 4 oz, and 19.5 inches long. Although the state insisted that I hadn't had a child, only a fetus, and gave me only a fetal death certificate rather than a birth certificate, the hospital and state did acknowledge that he was "enough" of a child to give us the right to choose what we wished to do with his remains. We chose cremation.

BUT the following letter tells a different story about the rights of parents!!! I don't want to debate you about fetus vs. child in order to defend or tear down abortion rights. I want you, dearest reader, to understand that parents who endure the death of a child at any point during the pregnancy-- those who did not choose to abort the child, but rather suffered miscarriage or stillbirth-- they deserve the right to bury or cremate their children's remains! They should not have to fight for the right to love and care for their children in whatever way they see fit! It is a crime to deny these parents burial rights just because zillions of others are choosing to abort and don't want burial rights! The women's movement has not done it's job if these bereaved parents are left standing alone in the cold, hurt, and angry!!! The women's movement is suppose to be about freedom of choice, right? Well, then why don't these parents get to choose?

Please contribute to this research if you can:

Letter from March 27, 2001

Dear Parents:

Parents’ Rights to Fetal Burial in America

My Name is Cecelia McGregor and I reside in Illinois. I am the mother of Angelica Rose, who died during the 10th week of my pregnancy in May of 98. Unfortunately, despite my inquiries about having a funeral prior to a D & C, my pregnancy was "disposed of" in the hospital incinerator with batches of common medical waste. This experience has led me to become active in advocating for Parents' Rights to Fetal Burial in Illinois.

I am currently researching laws about the Parents' Rights to Fetal Burial across the Nation. I am compiling information to bring to US Senators to encourage them to introduce legislation that would mandate parents be given information about the burial option at the time of the baby's death, regardless of the length of gestation.

At least six states have already enacted such a law, and several other states are beginning to follow suit. Several states have defined a “fetal death” as death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy.

I lobbied for a Parents’ Rights Bill (IL House Bill 382) which was introduced in Illinois this term. The House of Representatives passed it by unanimous vote and it has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Please consider contacting me:

  1. If you have been denied your right to bury your baby, especially in the first trimester.
  2. If you have had to battle with the hospital in order to obtain the remains of your baby for a burial or cremation.
  3. If your hospital did not inform you about their policy for handling the remains of a child who has died under 20 week’s gestation.
  4. If you would like to share information about the parents' right to fetal burial law (or the lack of a law) in the state where you reside.
  5. If you have gone public with your experience, or are aware of any stories in the media in this regard, please email a copy of the story to my email address listed below.

Because early pregnancy loss is a taboo subject, many parents do not have an outlet to discuss their concerns. Although the vast majority of bereavement experts and authors advocate that parents be allowed to make their own decision about a burial, many hospitals still do not allow parents who experience an early pregnancy loss to make this decision in a misplaced attempt to spare them of the details.

I would like to compile information that would prove that this is a national problem that requires the attention of our United States Legislators. I will not reveal your name if that is your preference. You may contact me by email and remain anonymous if you wish. My email address is
[editor's note: this email appears to no longer be current]

My intention is to compile data that can make a positive change in our legislation. Hopefully, this will result in a "common-sense" law being passed by our government across the nation.

The love we had for our babies did not die when they died. Participating in this process is one way you can help to ensure that other parents across the country receive compassionate treatment and be allowed to bury or cremate their baby if they so choose.

With Warmest Regards,

Cecelia McGregor, RN, BSN, CCM
Coordinator Bereavement Support Movement
Mother of Angelica Rose, 5/98

Press Release dated May 16, 2001


Bill Sent to Governor for Signing

I am pleased to announce that the Mother's Right to Fetal Burial, Illinois House Bill 382, was passed unanimously by the Senate today. The bill was sponsored by Senator Tom Walsh (R-Westchester) and passed by a 58:0 vote without any questions or debate. The unanimous Senate vote followed the House’s Lead, as the bill originated in the House and was sponsored by Representative Angelo “Skip” Saviano (R-River Grove).

Although some hospitals have respectful options and offer the mother a choice in the final resting-place of her baby regardless of the length of gestation, other Illinois hospitals have disposal policies, which are not fully disclosed to the mother. Some hospitals dispose of a baby in the
first 20 weeks of gestation with batches of common medical waste such as tumors and organs in a hospital incinerator. Other hospitals offer a group burial or cremation, separate from common medical waste.

This bill will also provide the mother with the opportunity to decide if she would like to consider a funeral, a rite of passage after death. Recent advances in medical technology such as in vitro fertilization and 3-D ultrasound imaging have impacted the bonding process. Because of these
advances, many parents are bonding with their babies much earlier. Many parents have recently sought religious services to commemorate early pregnancy loss. These rituals can be comforting to the emotional and spiritual needs of the mother.

Text of the Bill

The bill amends the Hospital Licensing Act and the Vital Records Act. It provides that a hospital having custody of a fetal demise, occurring after a gestation period of less than 20 weeks must notify the mother of that right to arrange for the burial or cremation of the fetus. Notification may also include other options such as, but not limited to, a ceremony, a certificate, or common burial of fetal tissue.


Since I wrote this letter, I have had an opportunity to meet with United States Representative Henry Hyde. Along with conversations with the offices of other United States Senators, I have been advised that each state has the legal right to pass it's own law about the mother's right to fetal burial.

Therefore, our mission must be to assist other parents accross the United States in lobbying to change the law in their home state. I would be more than happy to extend myself in these efforts, as well as to provide e-mail support through each step of the process.

Don't ever say that one person cannot make a difference!


Cecelia McGregor, RN, BSN, CCM
Coordinator Illinois Bereavement Support Movement

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