Legislation inspired by tragedy has made its way to the U.S. House of Representatives as Congressman Morgan Griffith (VA-9) introduced a bill that would extend the Child Tax Credit to parents of stillborn babies. H.R. 7208, which does not currently have an official title, was introduced on November 30 and would allow the tax credit for the year parents have an involuntarily stillborn child, which can reduce one’s federal income tax bill by up to $2,000.
The four-term representative said in a post on his congressional website that he attended the Washington County fair this year “on several occasions, and at one point while there I was approached by a grieving grandmother named Fern Puckett.”
“She pulled me aside and asked to speak with me privately for a moment. Ms. Puckett then related the details of a family tragedy, compounded by an unfair consequence of the laws currently on the books.
She spoke about her daughter, who went for a regular checkup when she was eight months pregnant. As the medical team started doing their tests, it was clear something was wrong, and the doctor soon informed her that her baby had died. The doctors induced labor, she went through active childbirth, and gave birth to her stillborn child. She spent hours cradling her baby. The family then made arrangements for the baby’s burial.”
One of the “unfair consequence[s]” about this situation is that about 24,000 stillbirths occur each year in the U.S., making up approximately one percent of all pregnancies. However, as Griffith points out, what is also unfair is that parents of children that die just minutes after birth are eligible for the Child Tax Credit for one year, but parents of still born children are not.
“As Ms. Puckett pointed out, this is unfair to the families of stillborn babies. The mother carries her baby for months, the family prepares for the baby’s arrival (room preparation, cribs, clothes, etc.), and even though the child has died, the families are subject to bills for their and their child’s care throughout the pregnancy. In addition, some families of stillborn babies pay for funerals, as Ms. Puckett’s family did. All told, the bills amount to a substantial financial expense. The emotional costs can’t be quantified but are high, and the financial costs are also difficult.””
“We can’t do anything about the emotional cost, but we can do something about the financial cost,” Griffith told The Roanoke Times.
Although the bill was introduced in the lame-duck session following the Democratic gain of the majority in the House in the midterm elections, the Southwest Virginia congressman said that he will re-introduce the legislation in next year’s 116th Congress as he joins the Republican minority.
“We’re moving into the loyal opposition where if we think they’re wrong, we’ll pop ’em, but if I see something I think they’re doing right, then I don’t have any hesitation to join them,” said Griffith, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which Congressman-elect Denver Riggleman (VA-5) has showed great interest in joining.
Nevertheless, Congressman Griffith said, “There are some good policies floating around here…This is something we can do that will actually help people. This isn’t an R or D issue, I don’t think.