“Fetal Remains” Model Legislation Could Make Abortion Impossible in Red States

Like many people, when the Planned Parenthood videos began popping up on the internet, I decided to look at the full transcripts to see what was left out of the edited versions. One thing that struck me the most? A discussion over the issues that abortion providers are facing when it comes to how to dispose of the products of conception after a procedure.

With abortion opponents willing to harass any company that works with a provider – especially one that a clinic relies on to stay open – it’s easy to see disposal as a weak point for closing a clinic all together. Now, according to anti-abortion activists, that weak spot will be exploited in a round of future legislation, with a model bill being tweaked to force abortion providers to shut down because they have no way to dispose of remains.

According to the Guardian, anti-abortion activist David Daleidan, who is behind the videos he hopes will shut down Planned Parenthood, made a guest appearance at an ALEC conference, where he discussed the fetal tissue disposal problem with fellow conservatives. As the Guardian reports, Americans United for Life was already aware of the struggle for abortion providers, and has a bill prepared to exploit it. “[Dan] McConchie, of the AUL, told the Guardian the group had drafted a model ‘Dignified Final Disposition Act’ and was tweaking it in response to the clandestine videos. ‘We’re working with legislators. There’s a lot of interest,’” reports the Guardian. “The proposed law would mandate that fetal remains be cremated or buried. If cremated, they would have to be cremated separately from medical waste and a county medical examiner would have to authorize the cremation.”

The bill already exists, of course, although there weren’t any signs of anyone taking it up in 2015. AUL obviously hopes the videos will help change momentum on this issue, but initial attempts to require specifics on “dignified final dispositions” have been overwhelmingly unpopular, especially when miscarriage is added in, as it is in the model bill. An attempt to create a precedent to allow death certificates when a person delivers a stillborn baby failed last year in Kansas, after an abortion opponent demanded that all miscarriages at any gestation would need to be reported, either at a hospital or a doctor’s follow up. The bill’s original sponsor condemned the amendment sponsor for “politicizing” his legislation.

Adding “burial” requirements or death certificates for all fetal death, and lumping abortion and miscarriage together, is likely to continue to block similar legislation from ever managing to pass into law. With one in five pregnancies ending in miscarriage, such a rule would likely cripple hospitals as well as hit a similar wall it did in Kansas. After all, no one wants to be the one to tell a person miscarrying a highly wanted child that now she has to prepare for its burial and disposal before she leaves a hospital, or that she’s going to receive a death certificate soon after to verify her loss.

But adding new rules and regulation for the disposal of tissue and other remains only at an abortion clinic? That could be accomplished, and easily. “Final disposition means the burial [interment], cremation, or other legal disposition of a dead unborn child,” reads the current model. Force a clinic to inter remains, and suddenly a building needs a plot it can access. Force it to cremate and they need to meet the regulations of a funeral home or other such site, or find a business willing to work with it and drive up their costs even more so than the current process of disposal. And of course, those outside businesses would be subject to pressure and harassment as well.

Like all of AUL’s model legislation, if properly tweaked to avoid pubic pushback, it could easily pass in all of the states with Republican majorities – all states in which access is already tenuous at best. Like all TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) bills, they could close clinics and leave these states without legal abortion care.

Then again, perhaps “dignified disposal” legislation cannot divorce abortion from miscarriage, or legislators can’t set rules that apply only to clinics but not to hospitals or doctors who administer to patients with miscarriages or stillbirths. Let’s hope that is the fact, because otherwise, this could be the final straw that shutters clinics for good.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Dreamed up by men with medieval minds, rather than women who might have some inkling of what it might feel like to suffer miscarriage or stillbirth.

Allan Richardson
Past Member 2 years ago

As I have said before, ANTI-CHOICE LAWS KILL WOMEN, because if a "person" must be killed in order to save the woman's life, as in ectopic pregnancy, doctors will usually opt to protect their careers rather than take time from their practice to go to court with the woman to testify that the abortion was legal self defense (and what would THAT, the time factor alone, not to mention malpractice insurance, do to medical costs?). And I wouldn't put it past those people to rewrite the legal definition of self defense to include ONLY the killing of a person who is making an active ATTEMPT to kill you, rather than a "person" whose very existence medically threatens your life.

And their next talking point will be "how can you count the lives of maybe a dozen women a year as being more valuable than the lives of thousands of unborn babies?"

Dita Škalič

Some families want to bury fetal remains and deserve this option but forcing them to do so or to report death is stupid and insensitive. Obviously, the politicians' intention with this is not to offer consolation but to make people fill guilty for suffering a miscarriage or having or providing abortion.

Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Vikram S.
Vikram S2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

nathan KENNY
emma KENNY2 years ago


Jaime Alves
Jaime Alves2 years ago

Noted, thanks.