States weigh fetal-remains bills amid abortion debate


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A law requiring abortion and medical providers to cremate or bury fetal remains passed the state Senate Tuesday in Utah, one of several states considering similar measures that abortion-rights advocates say stigmatize the procedure.

The proposals come after the U.S. Supreme Court last year upheld a similar Indiana law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence. Supporters say the requirements, which also apply to miscarriages at medical facilities, would be more dignified and create space if people need to grieve.

“If you believe that an unborn child is a human being, then when that life is terminated dealing with the remains is important,” Republican sponsor Utah Sen. Curtis Bramble said. His proposal would allow, but not require, a woman to choose whether a fetus is buried or cremated.

It now goes to the Utah House. Coming in the wake of restrictive new abortion bans passed in several states around the country, advocates say fetal-remains laws can chip away at access to abortions and create shame for patients.

Similar bills regulating the disposal of fetal remains have been introduced in six other states: Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Two of those, Pennsylvania and Ohio, have also passed through one chamber.

New regulations have also been discussed in Tennessee, and Indiana is weighing an amendment to its 2016 law. Planned Parenthood there has said the law will likely increase expenses for abortions.

Indiana was one of four states that passed fetal-remains laws in 2016 and 2017, after anti-abortion activists released undercover video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of fetal tissues. The videos sparked anger from conservatives around the country, but investigations cleared the group of wrongdoing.

Laws in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas have been blocked amid lawsuits.

In Utah, fetal remains are now turned over to processors who handle disposal of human tissue or other medical waste. The state’s Planned Parenthood chapter says that method is safe and effective. They argue a woman could request remains be cremated or buried instead under current law.

“We fully support women who have had a miscarriage or abortion to make whatever choice is right for them in the aftermath of that experience,” said Lauren Simpson with a left-leaning group that opposes the bill, Alliance for a Better Utah, in a statement. But “the true purpose of this bill is to chip away at women’s reproductive rights.”