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NY State: Stop Leaving Stillbirth Moms Out to Dry on PFL

Updated: 1 day ago

Stillbirth is *Still BIRTH* and Mothers Have a Right to Heal Postpartum


New ACTIONS (Feb/March 2024): Scroll down ⬇️ for details! Awareness Demonstration 3/14 + Postcard/Call Campaign


UPDATE: NY State has FAILED to pass this critical legislation, leaving 1,000+ stillbirth mothers' lives hanging in the balance in the next year alone. But the fight isn't over.


If our elected officials won't protect expectant families, we must be proactive in protecting each other. Scroll down ⬇️ for ACTIONS you can take in NY & beyond! #unitedwepush

Cassidy Perrone and her husband had been hoping for a St. Patrick's Day baby, but never like this. When she went into her daughter, Olivia's, 36 week checkup after 8 months of a healthy, textbook pregnancy, they'd wondered if maybe the doctors might find signs of Cassidy's body going into labor a little early so that their first child would be born on this holiday which is so special to both their families.


In a cruel twist of fate, Olivia did end up being born on St. Patrick's Day, but only after Cassidy learned at that checkup that Olivia's heart had inexplicably stopped beating.


“It was literally the most horrific moment of my life,” she recalled in a 2022 article on TODAY.com about her experience, which Cassidy describes as "a slap in the face."

"We'd been hoping for a St. Patrick's Day baby, but never in our darkest nightmares could we have conjured up something like this." -- Cassidy Perrone on her daughter, Olivia's, stillbirth at 36 weeks gestation on March 17th, 2022

Cassidy later learned that Olivia died of a potentially preventable stillbirth due to a small placenta in which led to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).


Cassidy's brain was spinning. "I said, 'Don't tell me that I've gone through almost nine months of pregnancy only to walk away empty handed.'" But like the other 65 families every. single. day. in the United States who lose a child to stillbirth - many of whom are left without answers - Cassidy and her daughter were yet another victim of a medical and public health system which has routinely swept the risk of stillbirth under the rug.


And the nightmare conclusion to her otherwise perfect pregnancy wasn't over yet. Cassidy called her family to let them know she was checking in to the hospital to deliver her deceased baby.


It's not widely understood that stillbirth is just that: still birth. So at almost 4 lbs and 17 inches long, Olivia still needed to be born just like any other baby. The only difference was, after nine long months of anticipation and several grueling hours of labor, Cassidy would be leaving the hospital without the prized child that was supposed to make it all worth it.

It's not widely understood that stillbirth is just that: still birth. Cassidy's daughter was born still at at almost 4 lbs & 17 in long

At least, Cassidy thought to herself, I will have several weeks to process and heal before I have to return to work. Only, she was in for a rude surprise.


"It was the day after Olivia's funeral just one week after her delivery," Cassidy recalls, "And I received a call from my employer saying the state, 'NY State has revoked your Paid Family Leave (PFL).'" The next day, the state called her themselves, and had the audacity to ask her to "voluntarily withdraw her paid leave application" since she "no longer have a baby to bond with." They offered her a paltry $170/week in Temporary Disability benefits as a consolation prize, instead of the $1,100 per week she'd been approved for through the PFL program.


Cassidy was aghast. "I had been paying for those benefits through my own paycheck for years, and NY state approved my application during Olivia's pregnancy. I may not have had my baby in my arms, but I still went through almost 9 months of pregnancy and a full-term birth. I was depending on that leave to recover physically before I could safely return to work, never mind to begin to process the mental anguish and heartache."

The state called asking me to voluntarily revoke my Paid Family Leave application since, 'You no longer qualify for these benefits since you do not have a baby to bond with.' -- Cassidy Perrone on NY's response to her 36 week stillbirth

As a recent op-ed co-authored by PUSH Changemaker volunteers and NY stillbirth moms Natasha Green and Evelyn Rosario explains, "New York’s self-proclaimed 'nation-leading' paid family leave program serves as the state’s maternity leave policy and provides 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth of a baby. Expectant parents who contribute to this employee-funded insurance program must apply for leave during pregnancy. Mothers depend on this money while they recover physically from the grueling feat of pregnancy and childbirth."


But a cruel loophole currently excludes mothers whose babies do not survive the pregnancy: the law, as it is currently written, only offers leave to birthing parents for "baby bonding" time, and since stillborn babies in New York do not receive a birth certificate, Cassidy's daughter Olivia didn't qualify.


Regardless of whether a baby is born still or alive, though, the early postpartum period is absolutely critical for maternal health, especially for parents who identify as Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color (BIPOC), who are most at risk for serious complications due to systemic and structural racism. In fact, last week PUSH was part of a coalition of maternal health organizations and activists who launched National Postpartum Awareness Week to raise awareness of the dangers to Black and Brown birthing people in the postpartum period.

The early postpartum period is absolutely critical for maternal health, especially for BIPOC parents. Stillbirth moms are almost 5x's more likely to suffer complications
National Postpartum Awareness Week #PostpartumAwarenessWeek #PAW

In the United States, approximately 40 percent of pregnancy-related maternal deaths occur within the six weeks after childbirth. And all postpartum mothers, no matter the pregnancy outcomes, are at risk for life-threatening conditions, such as postpartum hemorrhage, pulmonary embolism, postpartum depression or psychosis, etc., for weeks after delivery. And to top that off, mothers of stillborn babies are almost five times more likely to experience severe maternal complications.


PUSH volunteer Rachel Krause is a perfect example of why the postpartum period is so fraught with danger. Within days after returning home from her daughter Ophelia's stillbirth, Rachel developed symptoms consistent with pulmonary embolism, a dangerous and life-threatening condition which requires immediate medical intervention.


And this was after she'd lost more than 2.5 units of blood and nearly died in childbirth, requiring multiple transfusions, manual surgery, and interventional radiology due to an undiagnosed placenta accreta. In between these two terrifying events, Rachel had dragged herself to the hospital to care for her father, who had developed a life-threatening case of pneumonia, sepsis, and Ehrlichiosis. "I could barely walk," she recalls in a recent special investigation. And to top it all off, days after resolving the pulmonary embolism, she came down with a bladder infection.


But according to NY State, even if their own lives are threatened, moms like Rachel don't deserve paid leave if they aren't lucky enough to make it out of the hospital with a living baby in their arms.

But according to NY State... [stillbirth] moms like Rachel don't deserve paid leave if they aren't lucky enough to make it out of the hospital with a living baby in their arms.

An attorney, Cassidy is the primary breadwinner for her family. "My husband is a public servant and works in law enforcement - something I love about him and deeply admire. But I knew when I married him that his earning potential was going to be limited, and that the bulk of our family's financial burden would fall on my shoulders." Cassidy was feeling that burn acutely two weeks after Olivia's birth, when she realized that without her paycheck and the Paid Family Leave she had planned for, they wouldn't be able to meet their mortgage payment. "I asked my doctor if she could clear me to go back to work, and she said, 'Absolutely not. Even if Olivia had lived, I would never consider clearing you sooner than 6 weeks,'" which is consistent with accepted medical guidelines.

Even though she had given birth and been denied leave, her husband apparently still qualified for PFL. But that didn't help Cassidy - the primary breadwinner - pay her mortgage.

To add insult to injury, Cassidy learned that even though she had given birth and been denied leave, her husband apparently still qualified for PFL. "NY State recognizes that being postpartum is a serious medical condition, and so my husband would be able to claim benefits to care for me." When Cassidy asked how that makes any sense, she was told by state lawmakers that "the intention of Paid Family Leave is to care for the serious medical condition of another, not yourself." As if when a baby is born still, the physical trauma of pregnancy and birth magically disappear along with all the hopes and dreams a mother has for her child.


So where does that leave families like Cassidy where the birthing parent is the primary source of income, and single moms, who don't have a partner to fall back on? Even in Cassidy's case, any benefits her husband qualified for weren't enough to make ends meet. "We emptied our savings and maxxed out our credit cards and did what we had to do to safeguard my health," Cassidy explains. "But we're going to be digging out of this hole for years, and not every family is lucky enough to be able to do that."


That was when Cassidy realized she couldn't sit back and allow NY state to continue to victimize other families. She reached out to several state legislators and found champions in Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, who introduced S2175/A2880 to close this dangerous and callous loophole.

At a recent press conference, Senator Kennedy affirmed, “It’s important that families, mothers and fathers, have the ability to grieve, to heal with dignity and respect after the loss of a stillborn child." Assemblymember Rajkumar added, "These women deserve to be seen and to be included in the paid family leave law of our state."


The bill would amend the law to include recovering after a stillbirth as a qualification for paid family leave, instead of limiting it to "baby bonding time" for birthing people.


"We don't believe this is an intentional slight," explains Samantha Banerjee, PUSH Executive Director and mother to Alana who was born still at 39 weeks. "We've spoken with dozens of lawmakers from both houses and both parties over the past several months, and no matter what else they believe, everyone agrees that it's completely appalling that this is happening to stillbirth parents - up to 4 families every single day in New York."

Dozens of lawmakers from both houses and both parties ... and everyone agrees -- PUSH Executive Director Samantha Banerjee on the response to the bipartisan bill A2880

Indeed, the bipartisan bill was passed unanimously by the State Senate in March, and is currently co-sponsored by 100+ of the state's 150 Assemblymembers, including 22 of the 28 members of the Labor Committee, where the bill got hamstrung in the Assembly.

Sign the petition for #nypflstillbirth at https://tinyurl.com/nyspflpetition

"The NY Assembly let us down last spring," Cassidy reflects. "But our team is not going to give up without a fight. It's too late for our families and our babies, but we're going do everything in power to get justice for future stillbirth families. No one deserves to be treated like this."


Samantha adds, "We estimate that closing this cruel loophole in NY's PFL law will cost employees paying into the system a maximum of $1 per person per year. Do you know anyone who wouldn't give that to ensure moms like Cassidy, Rachel, Natasha, and Evelyn can heal safely after the horror of a stillbirth?"

Closing this cruel loophole in NY's PFL law will cost employees paying into the system a maximum of $1 per person per year. -- PUSH Exec Director Samantha Banerjee

Olivia, Ophelia, Jurni, and Amelia may have been robbed of their chance to be raised by their loving families, but that doesn't mean their lives aren't still having a major impact. "Every stillborn baby #StillCounts," affirms Samantha. "Olivia, Ophelia, Jurni, and Amelia are a testament to that. Their parents are bravely speaking out and have been working tirelessly for months to make sure that other parents aren't left out to dry by NY state the way their families were. And there is no force more powerful than a parents' love. NY state, it's time to do the right thing and guarantee that stillbirth parents get the time to heal that they deserve."


UPDATE (2/22/24): NY Governor Kathy Hochul has an opportunity to fasttrack this legislation by including it in her state budget. Help us demand IMMEDIATE action before a stillbirth mother loses her life to this callous - and correctable - loophole:


Awareness Demonstration at the Governor's Mansion - Albany, NY | Thurs, March 14th @ 2pm - Email us to be kept in the loop! (Free t-shirts for attendees!!)


Send a Postcard (Free!) - Complete this form to have a postcard mailed to Gov. Hochul in your name! https://tinyurl.com/pflnypostcard


Call/Email Your Reps - New Yorkers, contact your Assemblymember, Senator, and Governor to let them know you expect ACTION. It only takes 2 minutes and it REALLY WORKS!


Call/Email Script:

Dear [OFFICIAL], I am outraged to learn that NY State STILL has not managed to close the dangerous loophole stripping stillbirth moms of their promised paid leave only days after birthing and burying a child. This is unacceptable, and as your constituent, I want to know what you're doing NOW to make this right. New Yorkers deserve a solution to this injustice in the 2024 Budget (see bills A2880/S2175, A7762/S7581, & A4053/S2821 for ideas). Up to 1,500 NY families will lose a child to stillbirth this year; these birthing parents are at 5 times higher risk of life-threatening maternal complications, and are more than as twice as likely to be Black or Brown. Stillbirth is still BIRTH, and EVERY mother needs time postpartum to safely heal her body Thank you for acting before a NY mother loses her life to this callous gap in our laws. Sincerely, [NAME], [ZIP CODE]



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Learn more about NY #PaidFamilyLeave after Stillbirth (#nypflstillbirth):


One-pager about A2880/S2175: https://tinyurl.com/s2175factsheet (PDF)

Press Conferences: Dec 2022 (YouTube) & Jan 2023 (Instagram)

Press Releases: 12/20/22 & 6/7/23


Media Coverage:

  • ABC News Live Prime "Activists, leaders push to give paid maternity leave to moms who experience stillbirth"

  • ABC7 Eyewitness News "New York bill to allow paid family leave for stillbirth mothers stalls in legislature" & Eyewitness News Extra Time (timestamp 11:15)

  • News10NBC Investigates: Bill to help mothers of stillborns stalled in Assembly, deadline looms

  • Today.com "‘Emotional slap in the face’: Moms want stillbirths to be covered by paid family leave"

  • New York Post "NY Family Leave doesn’t help women after stillbirth: grieving mom"

  • USA TODAY Network New York Editorial Board "New York parents whose babies are stillborn deserve paid family leave"

  • Fox5 New York "Push to include stillbirth in NY's paid leave policy"

  • Insider "I was entitled to paid family leave. When my daughter was stillborn, the state revoked my leave at the time when I needed it most"

  • LoHud "Stillbirth parents: It's time for Hochul to support paid leave legislation"

  • News12 Bronx "Legislative push for mothers of stillborn babies to receive same paid family leave as other mothers"

  • BRONXNET Today's Verdict: a group of women fighting to get a bill through that would allow women who suffer a stillbirth to received paid family leave

  • Norwood News Op-Ed: Bring Paid Family Leave after Stillbirth to a Vote Now

  • Albany Times-Union "Commentary: Extend family leave to mothers of stillborn babies"

  • WENY News "Lawmakers push for legislation to extend paid family leave eligibility"

  • New York NOW "Fight to extend Paid Family Leave to parents grieving still born babies continues"

  • Queens Chronicle "Bill would provide leave for stillbirths"

  • State of Politics "Advocates: Expand paid family leave to include mothers of stillborn infants"

Letters of Support:


UPDATE (6/22/23): NY State has failed to pass this critical legislation. If you are as outraged as we are, we urge you to make your voice heard. Here's how you can help:

  1. EMPOWER - Most pregnant people still don't know that stillbirth can happen to anyone, even in an otherwise normal, healthy pregnancy. Now is the time to make sure that everyone you know who is expecting is empowered to recognize warning signs of stillbirth and to speak up to advocate for themselves and their baby with their medical providers. Share our (ALWAYS FREE) Empowered Pregnancy tips & evidence-based tools at pushpregnancy.org/tips and make sure they're following us on social media @pushpregnancy on all platforms!

  2. ADVOCATE - New Yorkers, email your Assemblymember and Senator to let them know you expect better:Dear [OFFICIAL], I am outraged to learn that the NY Legislature failed to come to a compromise to protect stillbirth moms from having their paid leave revoked at their hour of greatest need. This is unacceptable, and as your constituent, I want to know what you're doing to do to make this right next session (see A2880/S2175 & A7762/S7581). In the meantime, we need to do everything in our power to prevent families in our district from suffering a preventable stillbirth. Please share these potentially lifesaving empowered pregnancy tips (pushpregnancy.org/tips) with your constituents so that next year, hopefully fewer than 1,500 families will need to rely on NY's appallingly insufficient support system for parents who lose a child to stillbirth. Thank you, [NAME], [ZIP CODE]

  3. ACT - If our elected officials aren't going to protect us, we must take matters into our own hands to protect ourselves and our sisters. Please send this quick request to your company's HR leadership to ask them to amend their maternity/paternity/bereavement policies to explicitly include stillbirth and other pregnancy losses (send them this blog post to help them understand why this is crucial to employee health and wellbeing!). Here's a sample email to copy/paste:Hello, In an effort to provide the best possible support to employees, I'm requesting an immediate amendment to [COMPANY]'s maternity/paternity and bereavement policies to ensure that stillbirths and other pregnancy losses are explicitly covered. As you may know, the loss of a child to stillbirth does not end the pregnancy - the mother/birthing parent must still give birth to their stillborn child, just like any other baby, and they need the same time postpartum to heal their bodies before safely returning to work. States like NY have failed to ensure adequate protections for these parents, but there's no reason to wait for the government to enact these common sense changes. I'd like to see stillbirth explicitly included in our paid leave policy for birthing parents, and stillbirth and other pregnancy losses considered an "immediate family" type of bereavement leave, which would be available to both parents.Statistics show that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, including 1 in 170 that end in stillbirth in the 2nd or 3rd trimester, when the parent must still endure the physical trauma of childbirth. As our company hires more women and birthing people, we will have a growing population of employees who endure this physical, emotional, and financial hardship and devastation. While our culture is quite strong and I believe most managers would include this type of grief and loss in our policies as it exists today, a specific call out of this scenario in our formal written policies would signal clear support and empathy to our employees, especially those who have experienced loss. Please let me know how to best raise this suggestion for immediate change. Thank you, [NAME]


[PREVIOUSLY: Time is running out to push this critical bill across the finish line!] Here's how you can help:

  • SIGN this petition to log your support

  • SHARE to 3 people who will also sign - here's a quick text you can copy & paste:Hi! Will you stand in solidarity with me to make sure that stillbirth moms in NY stop being stripped of their right to heal their bodies after giving birth? Please sign this petition: http://tinyurl.com/nyspflpetition 



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