Rights to Fetal Burial

Introduction by Kara L.C. Jones
Letters & Press Releases by Cecelia McGregor, RN, BSN, CCM


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

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


This page is dedicated to
Dakota and Angelica Rose


Author Biographies
Cecelia McGregor resides in Illinois and is the mother of Angelica Rose, who died during the 10th week of my pregnancy in May of 98. Her email address is McGregorBSM@hotmail.com.

Kara L.C. Jones is a founder of KotaPress and a grieving mother who lost her first born son on March 11, 1999 at 4:47 p.m. She works toward healing by doing her own writing and offering poetry therapy consults to other bereaved parents. If you wish to contact her, please send email to editor@kotapress.com

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