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GOP States Have Found A New Way To Shame Women For Getting An Abortion

CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS, SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS, SHUTTERSTOCK

When Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine discovered that Planned Parenthood was, in fact, not responsible for selling fetal tissue in the state — the smear at the heart of a right-wing campaign seeking to discredit the national women’s health organization — he was the last to admit it.

Downplaying the finding that cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, DeWine instead quickly blamed local clinics for something entirely unrelated, hoping to distract Ohioans with an emotional appeal about the horror of abortion.

“In the course of our investigation, we learned that aborted fetuses are ultimately disposed of in landfill sites — apparently intermingled with other common residential and commercial trash,” DeWine wrote in a December letter to state Department of Health Director Richard Hodges.

Burial and cremation laws are only intended to shame women for their decision.

“We found that these fetuses were steam cooked,” he said at a following press conference, referring to a common process used to kill bacteria before disposing biological remains.

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His demand for a disposing fetal remains in a more “humane manner” — which has yet to be defined — ultimately inspired a pair of recently introduced Ohio bills demanding that women, after having an abortion, must inform the clinic if they want the aborted remains to be cremated or buried. The abortion clinic is financially responsible for completing the task.

But Dewine’s tactical pivot isn’t his brainchild. It’s been carefully crafted by the country’s most powerful anti-abortion organization, Americans United for Life (AUL), which writes draft bills for GOP lawmakers. And it’s quickly become the latest trend in anti-abortion legislation. http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/12/02/3597770/americans-united-life-abortion/“Fetal burial” bills like Ohio’s have begun to make a significant appearance in the legislative sessions of conservative-led states — states that have already passed nearly every restriction possible to restrict a woman’s access to an abortion. Kellie Copeland, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said this is a technique to keep the anti-abortion debate front and center, regardless of the need for this particular policy.

“The purpose is really just to keep the anti-abortion narrative going at state capitols, and talk about how abortion providers are not doing the right things in some people’s eyes,” Copeland said. “And let’s be clear. Burial and cremation laws are only intended to shame women for their decision.”

Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for ACLU Ohio, agrees. “It’s just a way to keep abortion issues afloat and in the public eye,” he said.

Many states are using eerily similar language to drive fetal burials bill through their legislatures. The identical legislation is no coincidence: The text is copied and pasted directly from AUL’s website. AUL functions as a legislation mill for anti-abortion lawmakers, enabling them to “easily introduce bills without needing to research and write the bills themselves,” according to the organization’s website.

You would be able to easily request a list of who’s getting an abortion in the state

Idaho, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina all have bills in their current session with language pulled directly from AUL’s model legislation, which is evocatively titled the “Unborn Infants Dignity Act.”

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States like Ohio and Indiana — which approved a controversial anti-abortion law last month that includes a fetal burial provision — are slightly less overt in their duplication of AUL’s draft bill, but are clearly inspired by its model.

AUL’s bill is meant to applied to “every instance of fetal death, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy.” In some cases, this would mean a woman who took an abortion pill a couple months into a pregnancy would be asked if she wanted a quarter-sized blood clot to be formally buried. She would then get a death certificate.

Regardless of the reason behind an abortion — whether it’s a pregnancy that resulted from rape, or it’s an unwanted pregnancy at the wrong time in a woman’s life — this could be a traumatic ask.

“None of this has to do with public health. It’s harassment,” Copeland said.

According to Daniel, these bills all contain a particularly dangerous loophole that legislators may not be aware of. If a state is going to require a fetal death certificate for every abortion, the name of the woman who’s had the abortion could be made public record.

Indiana Is Trying To Pass An Abortion Bill That’s So Extreme Even Republicans Don’t Like ItHealth by CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon Indiana lawmakers are currently advancing a particularly harsh anti-abortion…thinkprogress.org“It’s become alarming to people that, through the Ohio public records law, you would be able to easily request a list of who’s getting an abortion in the state,” said Daniel, who is testifying Wednesday against the handful of new anti-abortion bills at the state capitol.

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“I’m not sure if it’s the lawmakers’ intention or if it’s an oversight — but that information will most certainly become public if this bill passes as-is.”

Enacting burial requirements is just the latest state-led effort to humanize fetuses. From misleading overly-graphic imagery, to demands of a “Vietnam Wall type” memorial for aborted fetuses, anti-abortion lawmakers have worked hard to embed the illusion of a tiny human baby being “ripped limb from limb” in voters’ minds. Meanwhile, these same lawmakers have generally ignored any bills supporting the health of actual babies facing abhorrent infant mortality rates.

None of the lawmakers behind these bills demanding clinic-led burial or cremation programs are explaining why this law shouldn’t apply to all fetuses — including fetal tissue that results from natural pregnancy losses — which comes across as openly contradictory to Daniel and other pro-choice advocates. In Ohio, and most states, state hospitals use the exact same process to dispose of miscarriages and still births as Planned Parenthood does to dispose of fetal remains.

“They’ve been avoiding this answer,” said Daniel. “And the public isn’t letting them off the hook.”