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Fight to extend Paid Family Leave to parents grieving still born babies continues

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Cassidy Perrone and advocates at the Million Dollar Staircase in Albany.
Alexis Young

Fight to extend Paid Family Leave to parents grieving still born babies continues

Lawmakers and advocates gathered in Albany to further their effort to make stillbirth bereavement eligible for New York State Paid Family Leave. 

Parents whose paid family leave was revoked after going into labor but returning home without a baby describe the exclusion of stillbirth leave as an devastating oversight in the legislation’s language.

“I believe it’s an unintended gap in the law,” Cassidy Perrone, mother of Olivia Grace – who was born still said. “When the law was enacted in 2018 I just don’t think people knew or understood what a stillbirth is.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention classifies a stillbirth as a “loss of a baby at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

As it stands, Paid Family Leave allows eligible employees to bond with their new child, care for family members with serious conditions and assist loved ones when family members are deployed abroad.

The use of “bond” and the concept of “bonding” with a new child is the linguistic red tape that prohibits stillbirths from paid family leave coverage.

The bill that seeks to amend this language is sponsored by Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Erie, and Assm. Jenifer Rajkumar, D-Queens.

During his remarks at Tuesday’s gathering in the New York State Capitol, Kennedy shared his own experiences grieving still born children.

“My own family’s had losses, personally my wife and I lost our little baby girl on Oct 19, 2007,” the senator said.

“She was with us for four minutes,” he continued.

Kennedy wasn’t the only lawmaker with personal experience regarding stillborn children. Assm. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, D-Brooklyn, said she was expected to return to work soon after the birth and passing of her son, Jonah, in 2016.

“He came out living for an hour or two and then he passed.” When Hermelyn was expected to work she, “didn’t even have a chance to mourn [her] son.”

She cited data that reveal how women in her demographic are more likely to birth still born babies.

“In New York City there are approximately 900 still births each year,” Hermelyn said. “Data shows that women of color are more likely to experience a stillbirth, risks among Black women twice as high in other groups.”

During the last session, the bill that would make stillbirths eligible for paid family leave passed in the Senate, but not the Assembly.


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