State lawmakers are introducing new legislation that would require women who have abortions or miscarriages to designate arrangements for burial or cremation of fetuses.
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s months-long investigation into Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in Ohio turned up no evidence that the organization was selling body parts of aborted fetuses, as had been alleged in a video that went viral nationwide. But DeWine says the investigation showed medical waste vendors they use were dumping fetal remains into landfills, which Republican State Representative Kyle Koehler says distresses him.
“Whether they are selling body parts or simply tossing them into landfills doesn’t matter to me anymore,” Koehler says.
He’s one of the Republican sponsors of a bill that would require women who undergo abortions at clinics or are treated for miscarriages at hospitals sign a form, designating burial or cremation of fetal remains. The cost of that would be passed on to the facility, which could then pass it on to the women being treated. While she personally opposes abortion rights, Representative Barbara Sears says this bill is not politically motivated.
“The idea of respectfully treating the remains of an infant who has been aborted, I think is critical,” says Sears. “And I think that you can see how we treat our own childhood pets when we are disposing of them in a respectful way, you know I think that people are shocked. And I don’t think that it matters whether you are Republican or Democrat or Independent or oblivious to politics all together.”
Representative Robert McColley says there are still details to work out, such as whether there would be specific cemeteries for the bodies or places where cremains could be spread. Right now, in Ohio, he says the state does not record the names of women who get abortions, and he says while the state would require all women to sign this form, the goal would not be to start a statewide registry of sorts.
“There’s nothing in there that requires specific…names and information to be disclosed to the Ohio Department of Health and if there is, then we would remove that,” McColley says.
But Gabriel Mann of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio says this legislation, and the stated need for it, is all politics.
“This law that Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates have been following has been in effect for 40 years, 3 months and 14 days and nobody had any problems with them following the law until Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine had to announce that Planned Parenthood was following the law,” Mann says. “He got very frustrated by the fact that he had to tell the truth and now they need a new law.”
Mann says there is absolutely no need for a new law regarding fetal remains.
“None of this is medically necessary. The only reason that these bills are being introduced is because they want to try to harass abortion providers and harass women that are seeking a safe and legal procedure.”
Danielle Craig with Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio says her organization is constantly under attack by this legislature, and she says it hurts women who have to make difficult choices.
“You know, each time one of these regulations are introduced, that’s more burden on the women who come in to see us and I think that’s the unfortunate part.”
But Stephanie Krider with Ohio Right to Life doesn’t see this as a burden for women. She says she doesn’t think it is unfair to require women who have miscarriages to sign the proposed form.
“Absolutely, we are sensitive to that. In 2006, I believe, we passed a law that allowed for fetal death certificates to be issued by the Ohio Department of Health. I think it’s actually called a certificate of still birth and those are available now to women who miscarry after 20 weeks gestation.”
Unlike those certificates, which women can choose to get, the document to designate how to deal with fetal remains would be mandatory. It would extend to all fetal remains, regardless of how far along the pregnancy is.