For the law: still-born >28 weeks of gestation.
-If a baby is still born after the 28th week of gestation the child will need to be registered at the registry office and after the child will be able to proceed with the burial.
-If instead the child is born alive and dies after the birth, in that case a birth and then a death certificate need to be issued. In this case too the child will need to be registered to the registry office before being buried.
-If the child is born <28 weeks gestation the child will be considered a ‘product of pregnancy’ or ‘abortion’ and the parents won’t be able to register him/her to the registry office.
-In any case and at any gestation the parents will be allowed to request the burial of their child. In that case they will need to officially request the burial to the health care board (see pdf), followed by a medical certificate issued by the gynaecologist with gestational age and birth weight of the child.
-Since 2008, French legislation authorizes parents to declare their child to the registry office and include the child in the family record book even before 22 weeks of gestation.
The maternity ward will give a birth certificate to the couple, specifying that the child is still-born after a termination for medical reason or any other reason. This document allows them to go to the town hall and register their child.
-For a termination after 22 weeks of gestation the same procedure applies. If the child is the first born of a non-married couple, they can also ask the town hall for a family registry book to be delivered to them, after presenting the birth certificate from the hospital.
-At any gestation it is possible to bury the child. In the case the baby is born alive, it is the parents' responsibility to take care of the child's burial. If the baby is still-born, the parents have 10 days to request the body of their child and to proceed with the burial, even though they are not obliged to. The hospitals have the choice between disposing or organizing a burial for the bodies of the still-born babies and embryos not requested by their families.
-After a termination <22 weeks gestation the gynaecologist can provide the woman with a medical certificate for a tot number of days to show at the work place
-After a termination >22 weeks gestation the mother and the father will also be able to use their maternity/paternity leave.
In Belgium the burial procedures differs region by region:
-In the 'Région bruxelloise', the burial is mandatory for the still-born babies born within the 106th and the 180th day of gestation. For the rest of the still-born children, the bereaved parents can request a burial place in a specific cemetery or the disposal.
-In the 'Région Wallonne', if the child is still-born within 106-180 days of gestation the family can ask for disposal or burial at the appropriate cemetery space. However, there is no legal recognition of the child's existence.
- In the Région Flamande, the still-born babies are buried or disposed under parental request at any gestational stage. If the baby is still born, or not viable and is <180 days of gestation it doesn't need a birth certificate. In this case the child doesn't exist for the law, doesn't have a name. If the child is >180 days of gestation, and is born alive and viable the birth certificate must be issued, followed by a death certificate if the child dies.
Germany and Austria
In Germany, since 2013 and Austria since 2017, it is possible to give a name to any child still born at any gestational age. Those children are called “Sternenkinder”, meaning stars' children, their existence is recognized with a name, a birth registration to the registry office and a right to be buried.
Furthermore, the law has also retroactive properties: the parents will be allowed to give their child a name, showing the relative certificate even if the death happened many years before.
Malta, Ireland and Poland
Abortion in Malta is illegal and constitutes a criminal offence in all circumstances.
Unlike other member states of the European Union (EU), including the predominantly catholic, Malta bans abortion also in those cases when the woman’s life or health is endangered by the continuation of pregnancy, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act such as rape or incest, and when the fetus is seriously malformed. By comparison,Ireland permits abortion in those cases when the woman’s life or health is at risk, including the risk of suicide, whereas in Poland , abortion is permitted in all three above-mentioned circumstances
Cremation and burial should always be available options for the parents at any gestation.
-Babies born dead after the 24th week of pregnancy are defined in law as stillbirths and must be registered as such. This includes late terminations that take place at gestation exceeding 24 weeks. Common law requires that stillborn babies must be buried or cremated.
Medical certificate of stillbirth enables the woman or couple to register the stillbirth. This is entered onto the stillbirth register, which is separate from the standard register of births. The woman or couple is then issued with a ‘Certificate of stillbirth’ and the documentation for burial or cremation.
*If the death in utero happened <24 weeks of gestation the child will have no legal status and won't be registered as a stillbirth, even if the birth happened >24 weeks of gestation.
-A baby or fetus of any gestational age which is born showing signs of life and dies before the age of 28 days is a live birth and neonatal death. The law requires that where a baby or fetus is born showing signs of life and then dies, their birth must be registered and they must be buried or cremated.
-While the legal duty to make funeral arrangements following a stillbirth or neonatal death rests with the parents, with their consent, it may be done by establishments on their behalf. In respect of stillbirths, it has long been recognized as good practice for hospitals to offer to arrange and pay towards burial or cremation.
-Children still-born before <24 weeks of gestation have no legal status however bereaved parents are entitled to a funeral service and either burial or cremation. No birth certificate will be issued.
Ida Saoirse Scherer,
our first baby girl, who was born and died at 16+5 weeks on the 30th November 2017.
Resources about Termination for Medical Reasons
Sister-friend Emily writing for her first son Amari Regan (Fragile X Syndrome)
Katrina's blog for her second daughter April Rey (Trisomy 13)