Ohio's House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring fetal remains from surgical abortions to be cremated or buried. After the state Senate agrees with amendments made by the House, Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to sign it.
The American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the bill, saying it will put a new burden on abortion providers and their patients.
The measure will "impose requirements on the final disposition of fetal remains from surgical abortions," as its title states. It would require women who choose to have an abortion to make a determination in writing about how the remains should be handled. If a patient opts not to decide, the task would fall to the abortion provider.
Critics note that the bill creates new expenses. The medical facility would have to pay for a cremation or interment, unless the patient makes third-party arrangements for which she pays.
The bill is "nothing more than legislative harassment," ACLU of Ohio lobbyist Gary Daniels said in his testimony against the bill. He noted that the legislation would not apply to embryos disposed of by fertility clinics, or to fetal remains from medical abortions, miscarriages or stillbirths.
The ACLU of Ohio opposes the bill "because it serves no legitimate medical purpose," Daniels said, "and is an obvious attempt to inconvenience patients, shut down abortion providers, and imprison doctors who do not comply with the numerous nonsensical regulations found in this bill."
Ohio Right to Life, an anti-abortion-rights group that says it spearheaded the legislation along with its original sponsor, welcomed the bill's approval, saying it was a matter of common sense.
"Human decency requires that we treat every member of our human family with respect, something that, even in death, the innocent unborn will now be afforded," Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said in a statement.
Other states have enacted similar laws in recent years. A Texas law from 2016 went even further, mandating that fetal tissue from abortions, miscarriages or ectopic pregnancy surgery must be disposed of through burial or cremation. A federal judge blocked that law in 2018.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law – reportedly a model for the Ohio legislation — that limited its requirements to aborted fetuses and it omitted miscarriages. But as they issued that ruling, the high court justices also left the door open to "a possible challenge to the burial and cremation provision of the law on different grounds in the future," as NPR reported.
Ohio's Senate approved the bill in March 2019; the House of Representatives approved an amended version of the measure on Thursday.
"Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to sign the bill once the Ohio Senate agrees with changes the House made," NPR member station WOSU reported. "As attorney general, DeWine investigated how fetal remains from abortions were being handled after complaints from abortion opponents, although his investigation resulted in no charges or health citations against abortion providers."
The House endorsed the measure by a 60-36 vote. The Senate had voted 24-7 in favor. Every Republican voted to pass the bill, along with one Democrat, state Sen. Sean O'Brien.
The bill's main sponsor was state Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, who resigned from the Legislature last year to take a new job at the Ohio Department of Transportation. Dozens of co-sponsors joined Uecker in supporting the measure.