Wave of Light

In this October 2017 file photo from the Emma's Footprints Wave of Light event in Valparaiso, Michelle Michniewicz, of Hobart, creates custom birth certificates for guests who have lost infants to stillbirth.

File, The Times

It is difficult to fathom the depth of sadness when a mother gives birth to a stillborn child. Their heartbreak is compounded when bureaucrats treat those mothers badly.

Mothers in Indiana now have the right, since 2002, to receive birth certificates for stillborn babies. But in some county health departments, that right has been denied.

Jamie Lukas, of Crown Point, and Jennifer Stick, of Cedar Lake, said they had babies die in their wombs after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

"I was essentially told that since my baby was born dead, I couldn't get a birth certificate," Lukas, 32, told The Times' Giles Bruce.

Nick Doffin, administrator for the Lake County Health Department, said the office can issue birth certificates in that situation if a fetal death certificate is on file for the baby.

The employee who told the women no likely was unaware of the policy, he said.

This problem isn't limited to one employee at one county health department, however.

Heather Blythe, 30, of Kouts, said she had tried to get a birth certificate for her daughter, who was stillborn in September 2016, but the Porter County Health Department denied her request.

"I felt stupid and dismissed. It was a bad experience," she said. "What I went through was 100 percent child labor. I had a baby exit my body."

Blythe kept trying, and eventually she got that birth certificate. 

"No moms should have to go through what we went through and be denied pure, simple evidence of the child's existence," she said. "We all saw the heartbeats on the ultrasounds or heard them on the Doppler. Why not give us a birth certificate? Acknowledge that life."

Denying those birth certificates is contrary to state law and only added to the mothers' grief.

That’s why it’s so important to educate government workers whenever state laws affecting their duties change.

In this case, the mothers deserve a public apology as well as the birth certificates.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.