Commons moved to tears by emotional speech on Labour MP’s stillborn baby
Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said the Government would look at whether the current law on the registration of stillbirths should be changed
An MP moved the House of Commons to tears after recalling her stillborn baby “officially did not exist” despite knowing her heart was beating during the labour.
Sharon Hodgson’s voice cracked with emotion and she paused several times during her speech as she explained what happened to her third child Lucy.
Colleagues on the Labour benches could also be seen dabbing their eyes as she explained Lucy would have no birthday parties and, to her “horror”, no birth or death certificate after she was born at 23.5 weeks but stillborn.
The emotional scenes emerged during debate on the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill, which includes introducing formal recording for a stillborn child born before 24 weeks’ gestation and giving coroners the power to investigate late-stage stillbirths.
Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said the “care considerations” for parents experiencing a stillbirth would be “similar for those experiencing a late miscarriage”, as she told MPs the Government would review the issue.
“I am pleased that clause three will provide for the Government to review this issue and to look at whether the current law on the registration of stillbirths should be changed to allow for the registration of pregnancy loss before 24 weeks gestation.”
The Bill, brought forward by Tory former minister Tim Loughton and which passed at second reading, also seeks to see how the Government can extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, plus to include a mother or second parent’s name on marriage and civil partnership certificates.
MPs heard the two clauses relating to civil partnerships and marriages are to be replaced and developed at committee stage following agreement with ministers.
The MP for Washington and Sunderland West said she wanted to make the speech to support changes to the law despite knowing she would “end up in floods of tears”.
She initially said she watched a previous Commons debate on baby loss from her office as she was “too scared” to be in the chamber due to how emotional she would get listening.
Ms Hodgson added: “I never felt brave enough or strong enough to do what they did – and I still find it very difficult even now all these years later to even talk about it.”
Conservative MP Will Quince (Colchester) intervened to allow Ms Hodgson a chance to compose herself during her “brave and powerful” speech, noting: “Bereaved parents, all of us, want to ensure our child’s life – however short – has meaning.
“She is absolutely doing that. If she doesn’t mind me saying, Lucy would be very proud of her mummy today.”
Ms Hodgson joked in reply: “If he was trying to calm us down, he’s probably made it worse.”
After explaining what care Lucy would have received if she had been born alive, she noted: “She would have had a birth certificate, she would have been celebrating her 20th birthday this year.
“But sadly she was stillborn so there was no flashing blue lights, no incubator and no birthday parties ever and, as I found out to my horror, no birth or death certificate.
“So as I held her in my arms and had to come to terms with what just happened, I also had to come to terms with the fact she officially did not exist and I would not be getting any certificate of her arrival or death.
“She was three to four days short of the required 24-week legal age.”
Labour’s Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) said: “It’s very clear Lucy does exist.”
Ms Hodgson described the time she spent with Lucy before she was taken to the chapel of rest before adding: “She was buried in a tiny white coffin in the same grave as my nana and granddad.
“I tell you all this to highlight that to the chaplain, the funeral service, to us, her family, she existed, she was a baby who was sadly born dead.
“Her heart beated throughout my labour just up until minutes before she was born. She just couldn’t make the final push into this world.
“Because of that and because of a matter of a few days, she doesn’t officially exist in any records other than in our memories and own family records.
“Even the entry on the deeds for the grave is in my name as if I, or in this case a bit of me, is buried there.”