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House committee releases bill calling for for 5 days pregnancy bereavement

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A House committee released a bill Wednesday that would allot state employees up to five days paid bereavement leave for miscarried, stillborn, and some terminated pregnancies.

The bill’s sponsor State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte) says this leave is different from the 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave passed last session, and only applies to state employees.

State Rep. Jeff Hilovsky (R-Oak Orchard, Long Neck) voiced concerns over job discrimination in the private sector – suggesting someone would choose a state job over a private business because of the leave benefit. But Heffernan argues the state does not have the flexibility that private employers do.

She also clarifies this bill is meant for those dealing with loss.

“If a mom-to-be decides that the right choice is to have a termination or abortion, and if that is not considered a loss to her and her family then that would not be included," Heffernan says. "This is when a person makes a difficult choice and that is considered a loss.”

State Reps. Melissa Minor Brown (D-New Castle South) and DeShanna Neal (D-Elsmere) shared their own experiences in the House Health and Human Development Committee meeting, to point to how common pregnancy loss is.

“Back in 2011 I was pregnant," Minor-Brown says. "And around 11 weeks, I found out that I had a Trisomy 16 pregnancy. When I went to have an ultrasound, they could not find a heartbeat.”

“Miscarriage loss is hard," Neal says. "I suffered a miscarriage and my rainbow baby is Hyperion.”

Bill authors note 20% of all pregnancies result in a miscarriage, and 1 out of 100 ends in stillbirth. The bill also says Black women have a 43% higher risk of miscarrying than white women, and Black mothers are also more than twice as likely to experience stillbirth compared to Hispanic and white mothers.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.