Representative Bob Cortes (R-Altamonte Springs) appeared before the Health & Human Services Committee of the Florida House to offer an amendment to two bills he is sponsoring during the current legislative session. HB101 and HB103 seek to create what has been dubbed “The Grieving Families Act.” The bills would allow the State Registrar of Vital Statistics Office of the Department of Health to issue birth certificates to parents who lose a child at less than twenty weeks’ gestation. Current state law only allows birth certificates to be given if the child is lost at twenty weeks or later. Cortes filed the bills in January 2017.
Cortes presented amendments to the bills to address concerns about privacy that had been brought to him by staff in the Florida Senate. The unamended version of the bill is unclear about what type of information would be collected and distributed to state and federal agencies from nonviable birth certificates.
Representative Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) had significant concerns about what information would be collected from the nonviable birth certificates and how such information would be used. Representative Daisy J. Baez (D-Coral Gables) stated she would support the bill in committee but “only to continue the debate.” Cortes admitted the unamended language of the bill needed work. The amendment seeks to protect families’ privacy and make certain the bill is not in violation of HIPPA and other federal privacy laws. “We’re still working on this to make certain that we’re not in violation,” Cortes told the committee.
Representatives from a number of public and private organizations attended the committee meeting to voice their support for and their opposition to the bill. Florida Family Action, the Midwives Association of Florida, the Florida Conference of Bishops, and the Florida Health Support group waived their comments in support of the bill. Opponents who waived their comments in opposition of the bill include the Florida chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW).
“For those of us who have lost a child, it’s the most painful thing you can imagine,” Cortes told the committee. “This bill is about parents who have lost a child…nothing more, nothing less.”
The bill’s amendment passed favorably within the committee. However, the bill still has several more hurdles to overcome before it will come for a vote on the House floor.
After Cortes concluded his remarks before the committee, he responded to a press interview about the bill. Cortes was asked if the bill was about abortion rights. He assured the public the bill had nothing to do with abortion.