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Bereavement bill passes committee unanimously; Legislators hope it will allow families time to heal

Posted at 9:56 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 23:56:44-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill that passed through a legislative committee Friday would allow Utah parents a few days of paid time off following a miscarriage or stillborn birth.

Sen. Wayne Harper, who serves the West Jordan and Taylorsville area, brought the bill forward in hopes to give both mothers and fathers time to heal following the loss of a baby, even if it’s just a few extra days.

“It’s up to each city, county or the state,” said Sen. Harper. “It’s a minimum of three days paid time off.”

The bill aims to change state law to include three days of paid bereavement leave for government employees.

West Jordan City Councilman Zach Jacob raised his voice in support for the bill during the committee meeting, especially because the bill includes bereavement for both father and mother.

“Even if it’s not a baby you ever get to hold or even a baby you get to recognize as a baby physically, emotionally you’re there,” Jacob said in an interview with FOX 13.

It’s an emotional experience Jacob and his wife have gone through twice. The Jacobs call their two kids their “bookends.” The expected arrivals of their first and last child ended in miscarriage.

The Jacob’s had three children in between.

“I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a mom who loses a baby. I can’t possibly know what it’s like,” said Jacob. ”It’s impossible for a woman’s group to know what a dad is going through.”

Camille Hawkins knows what it’s like to experience both miscarriage and a stillborn birth.

Three years ago to the day, Jan. 21, 2019, was her daughter’s due date.

“I sometimes think about where she would be, how tall she would be, what size she would be and what she would look like as a three-year-old,” said Hawkins.

Nine weeks before her due date, Hawkins said she couldn’t feel her daughter, Everly, moving.

After a while, Hawkins went to the hospital and learned Everly had passed away.

We were in complete shock and devastated,” said Hawkins.

One out of four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and Hawkins said one out of 160 are stillborn deliveries. She was one of them.

After 30 hours of labor, Everly arrived stillborn. Hawkins and her husband brought Everly home with them for a few hours together as a family.

“We gained essentially a lifetime of memories in a short amount of time,” she said.

Those memories are what Hawkins holds close to her as time moves on.

Hawkins also voiced her support for Sen. Harper’s bill in the committee meeting.

The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate committee and moves to the Senate floor for vote.

A similar bill called the “Support Through Loss Act” was introduced at the federal level in 2021. The bill has not passed through committee yet.

Should Sen. Harper’s bill pass through the 2022 Utah legislative session, this would be the first policy of its kind in the United States.