Utah Senate passes fetal-remains bill amid abortion debate

Utah Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah, date unspecified. | Photo by AndreyKrav/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A law requiring abortion and medical providers to cremate or bury fetal remains passed the Utah Senate on Tuesday, adding the state to several others 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,” sponsor Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said. His proposal would allow, but not require, a woman to choose whether a fetus is buried or cremated.

The bill, designated as SB67S02 in the 2020 Legislature, passed the Senate by a vote of 22-6, with all Southern Utah senators voting in favor. The bill now goes to the Utah House. Coming in the wake of restrictive new abortion bans passed in several states around the country, pro-choice 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, (but) the true purpose of this bill is to chip away at women’s reproductive rights,” Lauren Simpson with Alliance for a Better Utah said in a statement.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

St. George News contributed to this report with specifics regarding the Senate vote on the bill.


For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2020 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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