Utah Is The Latest State To Introduce Fetal Burial Legislation

Supermajority Education Fund

February 7, 2020

Utah legislators are considering a bill that would require healthcare providers to bury or cremate fetal remains that were the result of an abortion or miscarriage. The Utah Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to advance the bill to the full Senate on Friday. On Tuesday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a meeting to discuss amendments to the bill. 

The bill, SB 0067, amends the Funeral Services Licensing Act to allow for the disposition of certain fetal remains. Healthcare facilities that administer medication abortion are also required to allow their patients to return the fetus to the facility for its disposal. These facilities must maintain records showing their compliance with the bill.

The introduction of similar bills has increased across the U.S. in recent years. Four states passed legislation on the disposal of fetal remains since 2016, and three have been blocked in court. In 2019 alone, anti-abortion lawmakers introduced bills on the burial of fetal remains in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania House passed the bill in November, but the governor vowed to veto it at the time, and it has not gone any further since. The Ohio Senate passed a similar bill, but it remains in committee. Wisconsin Republicans wanted to ban the use of aborted fetal tissue in research last year but were unsuccessful in passing such a bill.

This recent uptick in these bills may be connected to the fact that last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s law regulating the disposal of fetal remains as well as the highest court’s conservative majority, according to Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute.

Nash also told Supermajority News that fetal burial laws qualify as TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) because they place “unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations on abortion facilities.”  Requiring clinics that perform abortions requires them to work with vendors to take care of fetal remains, which puts an additional burden on them.

“Every time abortion facilities have to contract out something, that can be very difficult because of the stigma associated with abortion provision and because those who oppose abortion rights sometimes pressure vendors into not working with abortion providers,” Nash said. “If a provider can’t fulfill this part of the legal requirement, then it can be very difficult to keep the facility open.” 

These laws also have very clear ramifications for patients seeking abortion care, Nash added.

“With patients, this is clearly about stigmatizing abortion, raising some issues around fetal dignity and fetal rights, and the patient is very clearly secondary here … When they can’t find someone to fulfill that contract, then you are putting the clinic in danger, and that affects patients,” she said.