Bill would require women who have an abortion or miscarriage to decide what to do with the remains

Utah Capitol 28

Women who have an abortion would be required to decide what to do with the fetal remains under a new bill on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

SB67 from Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, prohibits disposing of fetal remains with other medical waste unless the woman having the abortion chooses that method of disposal. The bill is modeled after an Indiana law that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2019. The legislation also governs the disposal of fetal remains coming from a miscarriage. That means women who decide to have an abortion could face additional costs.

“These are human beings. A child in the womb is still a child and those remains should be treated with dignity,” said Bramble.

Bramble does not shy away from the thought that his legislation would add another hurdle for women seeking an abortion, forcing them to decide what to do with the remains from the procedure.

“I would hope it makes a person choosing to have an abortion reflect on that they’re disposing of a human being, that this is not just medical waste,” Bramble continued.  

The bill does make it easier for women who suffer a miscarriage during pregnancy to obtain the remains for a funeral.

Bramble says the bill began to take shape last year when a woman from Indiana suffered a miscarriage while visiting Utah and ran into significant difficulties trying to transport the baby’s remains back to Indiana. Ultimately, she was successful, but Bramble says the whole process took much longer than it should.

The Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision to block Indiana’s law, which barred the incineration of those remains alongside other medical waste. In its decision, the Supreme Court said the Indiana bill did not place an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy.

Bramble says the proposed law is compatible with Utah’s already existing “fetal pain” law, which requires doctors to administer anesthesia to a fetus based on the scientifically disputed notion that a developing fetus can feel pain. That law, passed in 2016, applies to abortions in the 20th week of pregnancy or later.

“Pro-choice groups want to say these are just cells, that it’s not a human being,” he said. “I would say the dignity of human life and treating the remains of the deceased child with dignity is an appropriate role for government.”

(Editor’s note: This article has been clarified from the original version.)