Ohio Senate passed a bill that requires fetal tissue to be buried or cremated

"It’s raising the status of the fetus because you’re treating the aborted tissue as a person."

Demonstrators protest in front of the Thompson Center to voice their support for Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights on February 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. CREDIT:Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest in front of the Thompson Center to voice their support for Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights on February 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. CREDIT:Scott Olson/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Ohio’s Senate passed a bill that would require fetal tissue to be buried or cremated. The latest anti-abortion measure backed by Ohio Right to Life will likely receive support from Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who has signed a number of abortion restrictions into law over the years, including a recent measure banning abortions if the fetus has Down syndrome.

The bill now moves to the Ohio House. Under the measure, the cost of the burial or cremation would fall on abortion clinics if patients select one of the clinics’ pre-established locations for the service. The cost would fall on the patient, however, if the patient wants a different option.

Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on the advancement of reproductive rights, said the process is intrusive for the abortion patient.

“In some of these states, they are supposed to ask ‘What do you want to do with embryonic or fetal tissue’ or you’re counseled on this and what will happen and that’s just inappropriate for discussion. A patient may not want to talk about that … It’s intrusive and it’s raising the status of the fetus because you’re treating the aborted tissue as a person,” Nash said.

Bills on the disposal of fetal tissue have been passed and signed into law in Arkansas, Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana, but all are currently tied up in the courts. Because these laws have not been fully implemented, it’s difficult to accurately measure their impact, said Nash. However, she added, it is possible that funeral homes would encounter pressure from abortion opponents not to have a contract with the clinic, leaving the clinic struggling to remain open.

According to Cincinnati.com, abortion clinics are worried about the expenses of such a policy and whether funeral homes will cooperate.

This concern is not new. When Texas began implementing rules on its burial and cremation requirements in 2016, the Texas Funeral Directors Association worried about how the requirement would affect the families it serves and about the costs of complying with the new rule. Although Texas officials estimated the minimum cost of compliance would be $450 a year per health care facility, Michael Land, the spokesman for the association, told The Texas Tribune that the costs are probably higher than what the state officials projected. As part of the same bill that required the burial or cremation of fetal tissue, Texas created a Burial or Cremation Assistance Registry with the names of funeral homes and cemeteries that are willing to provide free or low-cost burial.

After Indiana’s law passed in 2016, funeral home directors voiced similar concerns.

“I think a lot of funeral homes are going to be doing a lot of man hours to do this, for not a lot of income,” Curtis Rostad, executive director of the Indiana Funeral Directors Association, told The Atlantic at the time. Rostad explained that “a crematory that is designed to cremate adult remains is a lot of equipment and a lot of size to put into operation for something that could be as small as an aborted or premature fetus.”

Nash said a series of developments spurred these bills focusing on fetal tissue. In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a video, which was discredited, claiming that Planned Parenthood was profiting off of the sale of fetal remains. Then in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-abortion law that threatened to shut down a swath of the state’s abortion clinics by imposing various architectural and credentialing requirements upon them.

“That struck down two important pieces of abortion opponents’ agenda, because abortion opponents thought that admitting privileges and clinic regulations were going to cut down [the number of] clinics and that it would be constitutional,” Nash said.

When those restrictions were off the table, they had to look for others and shift the focus back to the fetus and away from burdens on patients’ health care.

“Abortion opponents are looking for new ways to make it harder for abortion providers to keep their doors open and this is one way,” she said. “It is also focusing the abortion debate around the fetus and raising the status of the fetus and moving away from focusing on the woman. This kind of restriction then shifts focus away from the woman in a way that might support their agenda.”