A bill advanced through the Tennessee state legislature this week that would require abortion facilities to bury or cremate the remains of aborted fetuses.
The SB828/HB1181 bill made its way through state legislature committees in the House and Senate on Wednesday. The language of SB828 and HB1181 read, “Final disposition of fetal remains from a surgical abortion at an abortion facility must be by cremation or interment.” It also adds that a pregnant woman who has a surgical abortion has the right to decide if the fetal remains are cremated or buried, as well as the location for either to take place. If the woman does not want to make that decision, the abortion facility is given the right to do so.
“Tennessee code requires pets and animals to be disposed of by burial or cremation but there is no such law active in Tennessee for aborted fetal remains,” said Rep. Tim Rudd, a Republican from Murfreesboro. “I think it’s time for Tennessee to step up and give the same level of dignity given to a dead pet to a dead human being.”
Some abortion proponents are against the new Tennessee legislation, saying that it adds shame on a woman who wants to get an abortion.
News Channel 5 in Nashville reported that Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) spoke out against the bill. Robinson put out a statement on the bill’s passage, saying, “This bill shames a woman for seeking a legal abortion. There are no exceptions for real-world circumstances. There are no exceptions for religious customs. This is completely unnecessary for medical purposes. We don’t treat any other patients this way under the law and the legislature shouldn’t be passing laws that shame and demean people for their exercising their rights.”
Max Carwile, a community organizer with Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood based out of Knoxville, said, “I do not think our government should be in the business of legislating whether to or how we should grieve … It is pure government overreach to dictate how our patients find closure or heal.”
The Associated Press reported that the bill resembles a law in Indiana regarding the handling of fetal remains. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Indiana law. AP reported at the time, “The [Indiana] law requires the facility performing the abortion to provide for the burial or cremation, but doesn’t specify how the remains should be handled before then or what could be done with the cremation ashes.”
Last year, Tennessee passed a bill that would not allow abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is about six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. An emergency lawsuit was filed to stop the legislation from being put into practice just hours after it was passed and the legislature adjourned, according to AP reporting. The law is still going through the judicial system and has not yet been implemented.
A local ABC outlet in Memphis reported that the new Tennessee measure regarding fetal remains is on its way to the state senate where it will receive a vote. Republican Governor Bill Lee has not publicly discussed his position on the bill, but he opposes abortion.
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