DALLAS — Unless parents can afford a private funeral, a stillborn fetus in Texas is either treated like medical waste or cremated and put into a common grave, two heartbreaking choices a Dallas father is trying to get the legislature to change this session.
“The phone rings and I pick it up and my wife tells me they can’t find a heartbeat,” said Glynn Wilcox remembering the phone call a little more than a year ago. “I remember hanging up the phone with her and collapsing on the floor.”
Elisabeth Wilcox died, before she was ever born. It happened in December 2017, two weeks before Wilcox’s wife was due to give birth.
“For some reason the umbilical cord became detached from the placenta wall. No explanation,” he added.
Wilcox said his daughter’s body would be treated like medical waste or put into a common grave unless he and his wife could pay for a private burial.
“We called our life insurers and they’re like she’s not a covered entity because she never drew a breath and wasn’t out of the womb for 24-hours. There’s nothing we can do for you,” he explained. “It’s really hard for most people to come out of pocket and pay for an entire funeral. We thought we were protected.”
Using GoFundMe, friends and family helped the couple raise the $6,200 required to bury their child at an East Dallas cemetery.
“We didn’t want to treat her like medical waste. We didn’t want to treat her in a communal way. We wanted to treat her like our child,” he continued.
Last month, state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, proposed changing state law to require life insurers to bury stillborn babies. He introduced House Bill 4420 which, if passed, would make insurance coverage mandatory for the "disposition of embryonic and fetal tissue."
Two years ago, Texas Republicans passed a bill requiring hospitals to either bury or cremate fetal remains. It was intended to give some sense of human dignity to fetuses but was part of sweeping anti-abortion legislation that ended up and court and a judge later struck down.
People who back this bill hope to get support from those who wanted that one.
“Taking care of children, making sure their final resting place is taken care of isn’t a partisan issue,” Wilcox said standing by his daughter’s headstone.
Elisabeth’s memory is what drives him to help prevent painful decisions for other parents who already face an agonizing situation.
“If you don’t have the means or people to help you with that and that is literally your only option, that makes grieving worse.”
Wilcox said he has agreed to testify before the legislature when the bill gets its hearing.