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Lake County Government Center stock

The entrance to the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.

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

The women recently learned they were eligible under Indiana law for certificates of birth following a stillbirth.

However, they said, when they went to the Lake County Health Department to get the certificates they were denied.

"I was essentially told that since my baby was born dead, I couldn't get a birth certificate," said Lukas, 32, an education recruiter who lives in Crown Point, who claims to have been denied the certificate on two occasions. "I left because it was very upsetting to be told that."

Since 2002 in Indiana, parents of stillborn babies have been able to receive certificates of birth following a stillbirth. But multiple women say the Lake County Health Department recently denied them the certificates.

Nick Doffin, administrator for the Lake County Health Department, said the office can issue certificates of birth resulting in stillbirths if a fetal death certificate is on file for the baby. He said the department doesn't get many of the requests, and the employee who told the women no was likely new and unaware of the procedure.

Heather Blythe, 30, a civil servant from Kouts, recently told Lukas and Stick about their rights to the certificate at an event for women who had lost babies. She said she had tried to get such a certificate for her daughter, who was stillborn in September 2016, from the Porter County Health Department, but was told she was only eligible for a death certificate.

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

But, she kept advocating for herself and eventually got the certificate. Now she wants to make sure other women of stillborn babies do as well.

"No moms should have to go through what we went through and be denied pure, simple evidence of their 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."

Keith Letta, administrator of the Porter County Health Department, and Jayme Staggers, the registrar at the LaPorte County Health Department, said their agencies issue the certificates.

Lukas, whose son, Liam, was stillborn in February at 39 weeks, said she's telling her story to help other parents from being retraumatized.

"It's more for us mothers to have, as a validation, that even though our babies were born deceased, they were born," he said. "If mothers don't have to go through what I've gone through, I'll feel I've done something and helped other people."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.