Column: Stillbirths deserve tax exemption
Today is Mother’s Day, a special time to show our love and respect for everything moms do as well as the sacrifices they make for their children. While it’s typically great cause for celebration, for some mothers this day comes with a sense of loss and sadness.
As state legislators we know, understand and appreciate the value of hearing personal testimony during the legislative process. As a result, it only seemed appropriate to team up as the bill sponsor and a voice of families that have suffered a stillbirth.
With three young sons at home, the Alexander family anxiously awaited the birth of their first daughter. However, a few days past the due date — Christmas Day 1995 — it was discovered the baby had no heartbeat; Amy Jo had wrapped herself in her umbilical cord.
Amy Jo entered this world without a sound, breath or cry — born to heaven.
As state legislators, there is nothing we can do to take away the pain of losing a child to stillbirth. But we, as the state of Michigan, can acknowledge the baby — and help ease the financial challenges faced by their families. That is why we propose establishing a one-time income tax exemption for parents of a stillborn child, acknowledging financial challenges just as we do for every other child in Michigan.
Michigan offered a stillbirth tax credit from 2006 until 2011, when broad changes in the tax code eliminated it along with many other credits. This help for families should never have been eliminated, and now we propose restoring it in a new way.
Medical bills during pregnancy, preparing a nursery and buying baby clothes in anticipation of the new arrival are real costs. And sadly, so are the costs of an unexpected funeral. Families dealing with stillbirths often face thousands of dollars in expenses. An income tax exemption would provide these families with some much-needed financial relief.
The legislation establishing this exemption — House Bill 4522, sponsored by Rep. Mary Whiteford — is advancing in the state Senate. The House, with unanimous bipartisan support, approved the bill in April.
Every year, hundreds of families across Michigan are faced with their own struggles after losing a child to stillbirth. In a small yet significant way, House Bill 4522 will acknowledge the struggles of these families and help them through a difficult time.
Today, as Michigan families gather for the time-honored tradition celebrating motherhood, it’s also a time to reflect on the many families that have suffered a loss through stillbirth.
Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, represents Michigan’s 80th House district. Rep. Julie Alexander, R-Hanover, represents its 64th House district.