News10NBC Investigates: Bill to help mothers of stillborns stalled in Assembly, deadline looms

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A bill to help mothers of stillborn babies has stalled in the State Assembly and the deadline to pass it is in 30 hours.

The bill grants those mothers access to Paid Family Leave.

Right now, they don’t qualify because they don’t have a baby to look after. The law in New York looks at these mothers as if they were never pregnant.

Samantha Banerjee had a perfect pregnancy until she went into labor two days before her due date. When she got to the hospital, her baby had no heartbeat.

“Oh my God,” she said. “Words can not do the horrors of a stillbirth justice.”

Her daughter Alana was stillborn. Samantha returned to a home ready for a baby.

“I was bleeding for weeks afterwards,” she said. “I got home from the hospital and was shocked to find my milk came in. So your body doesn’t know that you don’t have a baby to feed.”

For a year, Berkeley Brean has documented stories like this and the fact that the Paid Family Leave for the mothers gets cancelled because their babies died before they were born. That’s what happened to Samantha Palermo and her stillborn son Archer in Brockport.

“Mentally it’s a battle everyday,” she told me last August after her PFL was cancelled. “So it’s like I just gave birth to a whole human, and it’s like he never existed and I never went through it.”

The bills in Albany would qualify Paid Family Leave after stillbirths. The Senate passed its bill 61 to 0. 
But the Assembly bill is stuck in a committee.

“The only people standing between this bill passing and the Assembly is, in fact, two large agencies that are rejecting the bill,” Cassidy Perrone.

Perrone is a lawyer who grew up in Irondequoit and Webster. She gave birth to Olivia, stillborn last year.

Brean, News10NBC: “What agencies are those?”
Perrone: “A Better Balance and NYCLU. Even though we have a shot right not to give stillbirth mothers, approximately 1,400 a year in New York, the right to heal post-partum like every other woman and protect their maternal health they would rather kill our bill because it does not include abortion and miscarriage.”

NYCLU says it does not have a position on the bill and does not object to it. “We support A.7762, which would accomplish the same goal more inclusively,” wrote NYCLU spokesperson Arianna Fishman.

A Better Balance told me they support a bills that would raise temporary disability payments.

“New York’s temporary disability insurance program currently covers recovery from a pregnancy loss as well as the need to take time off for other medical needs, and A Better Balance is continually advocating for its improvement,” wrote A Better Balance Co-President Sherry Leiwant. “Our organization is advocating for a bill currently in the legislature that would comprehensively improve access to paid leave in New York, including by raising the temporary disability insurance benefit level so that all New Yorkers who need time off to attend to their medical needs—including those who experience pregnancy loss and need to recover—receive the wage replacement and job protection they deserve.”

Mothers of stillborn can get disability. But the difference between Paid Family Leave and disability right now is approximately $1,100 a week and temporary disability hasn’t changed in three decades.

You can vote on this issue before the deadline. Click on the bill and find the “Do you support this bill” ballot on the right side of the page.