An organization that supports same-sex marriage in the state is calling on the Iowa Department of Public Health to issue an “accurate” death certificate to two women from Davenport who had a stillborn child.
Jenny Buntemeyer and Jessica Aiken met in 2008 while both were in Iraq with the Army Reserves.
They married each other in 2010. Jessica became pregnant via in vitro fertilization from an anonymous donor.
In October 2011, a boy the couple named Brayden died in utero as the umbilical cord became wound around his neck.
Molly Tafoya, with One Iowa, says the women signed their names on a fetal death certificate form, but the Iowa Department of Public Health erased Jenny’s name by the box labeled “father.” “This is an unthinkable tragedy that’s compounded by the Iowa Department of Public Health’s cruelty and their refusal to issue an accurate death certificate,” Tafoya said.
She spoke with reporters today, prior to delivering a petition to the I.D.P.H. in Des Moines. “We are here today to submit 8,500 signatures in support of the Buntemeyer family,” Tafoya said. The signatures were collected by One Iowa and Lambda Legal, which is representing Buntemeyer and Aiken in court.
Iowa Department of Public Health director Mariannette Miller-Meeks is defending the decision to erase Jenny’s name as “father.” She says her office is required by statute to identify the biological mother and biological father. “And there’s information that we use for our programming, for maternal child health research and the CDC uses that information and data,” Miller-Meeks said.
“So, vital records are important to individuals, but they’re also important in the greater scheme of research and prevention strategies.” Tafoya isn’t accepting that argument.
“These are parents…they got married and planned a family. They saved money, got pregnant and were expecting Brayden. When he was delivered stillborn, it was a heart-breaking tragedy,” Tafoya said. “They were Brayden’s parents and they just want a death certificate that shows that.”
Miller-Meeks says she has “tremendous sympathy” for Buntemeyer and Aiken’s loss, but she adds the department is only following the rules. “We have to go in accordance with what the statute asks us to do,” Miller-Meeks said.
“As we go forward in court, we’re looking for clarification and interpretation of the statute and it’s very possible that there may need to be an alteration done by the legislature.” Earlier this year, a Polk County District Court ruling ordered state health officials to issue a birth certificate that lists two women who are partners in a same-sex marriage as the parents of a two-year-old girl.
The women, Melissa and Heather Gartner of Des Moines, conceived the baby using an anonymous sperm donor. The Iowa Department of Public Health has filed an appeal in that case.
Full audio: Tafoya 3:25
Full audio: Miller Meeks 1:51