'Inhumane' to deny parents right to bury foetus younger than 26 weeks - activist

| Lester Kiewit spoke to Sonja Smith of Voice of the Unborn Baby, about the ConCourt ruling relating to the rights of parents who want to bury a foetus younger than 26 weeks.

Copyright : Danil Roudenko / 123rf

The miscarriage of a child can be a traumatic experience for any parent, but to be denied the right to bury the child will compound this pain.

That's the view of Sonja Smith of Voice of the Unborn Baby - an organization which took up the cudgels on behalf of parents to be granted this right.

Earlier this week, the Constitutional Court dismissed an application to confirm a high court order, which would give parents who lost their babies through miscarriage, before the 26-week mark, the right to choose to bury their foetus.

This comes after some provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act were declared as unconstitutional by the Gauteng High Court; which ruled that in the case of a pregnancy lost in other ways except medical intervention, parents should have the choice to bury the foetus.

Before this ruling, a foetus that hadn't reached 26 weeks was discarded as medical waste.

The Concourt application was brought by Voice of the Unborn Baby organisation and the Catholic Archdiocese of Durban, who believed that the act infringed on the rights of parents.

I started asking these questions in 2005 as to why parents do not have the choice to bury what they already perceive as their child. For all these years, there was no answer to my question. After high-level discussions with the Department of Health, we decided there was no other option to get clarity but to challenge the constitution.

Sonja Smith - Voice of the Unborn Baby

According to Smith, the interpretation of the act is that after 26 weeks, parents must bury or cremate a stillborn baby. Before 26 weeks, however, it's classified as a miscarriage, which means that the foetus must be incinerated as medical waste.

That to me is inhumane. Why can you not say goodbye to your baby in a dignified fashion?

Sonja Smith - Voice of the Unborn Baby

Smith's bid to give clarity to this question stems from her career as a funeral undertaker, where she experienced first-hand the grief of parents who lost their children.

In 2005, I was called to a private hospital to collect a set of [miscarried] triplets. When I arrived at the hospital, they were gone. I was told they're on the way to incineration in the medical waste truck.

Sonja Smith - Voice of the Unborn Baby

Up to now, there are still no proper guidelines on the management of birth before 26 weeks. Smith said mothers are "at the mercy" of medical staff in the case of a tragic loss. This means doctors would have different interpretations of how a miscarriage should be handled.

There should be a change in policy for healthcare workers, Smith added.

She believes there is a way to bypass the law.

You sign a form at the hospital, which is the same form when you want to take an appendix home. I've had cases of a 16-week foetus and the parents were adamant this is medical waste.

Sonja Smith - Voice of the Unborn Baby

My grey area starts between 20 and 26 weeks. There are babies born at 23 weeks onwards that live. At six-and-a-half months of pregnancy, it's practically a baby. How can you throw that baby in a bucket?

Sonja Smith - Voice of the Unborn Baby

Scroll up to listen to the full interview.

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : 'Inhumane' to deny parents right to bury foetus younger than 26 weeks - activist

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