Tennessee bill requiring women to bury, cremate remains after an abortion heads to governor’s desk

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 9:53 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - Intense debate sparked this week about the so-called Unborn Child Dignity Act that would require women after a surgical abortion to decide in writing to either cremate or bury the fetal remains.

“Normally the baby is abandoned in the abortion clinic and it’s thrown out in the trash or medical waste which is trash,” said Representative Tim Rudd of Rutherford County.

Rudd is the primary sponsor of the original bill in the House. It was then approved in the Senate Wednesday morning.

The bill would leave the financial responsibility for the disposal of the fetus to the health care provider or in some cases the woman.

If the woman chooses a burial location other than the one provided by the facility then the patient has to pay the burial bill.

“At least women now have a choice,” said Rudd. “When they have an abortion now in the clinic they just get up and leave, they don’t know what happens to the aborted fetus.”

Rudd says in no way does this legislation prevent a woman from getting an abortion, however, some critics say it is meant to shame women and their right to choose.

“And so what we’re doing is creating a financial, emotional and mental burden and efforts to try to dissuade women from exercising their right to abortions, but what we’re doing is traumatizing potential victims of rape and incest,” said State Representative London Lamar.

Lamar and other reproduction rights advocates say it is cruel to force a rape victim to bury the fetal remains.

Reproduction rights advocates say the bill is unnecessary since there is nothing currently prohibiting a woman from choosing to cremate or bury the fetal remains.

“For a lot of people they don’t want to discuss it, it’s too hard for them so they’re not really taking into account the sensitivity of the patient needs to have. The medical provider needs to take the lead on that, not politicians,” said Francie Hunt, executive director for Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood.

She says this bill is part of a bigger anti-abortion effort that’s targeting abortion providers.

Hospitals are not included in the bill.

“So no again, this is not about dignity,” said Lamar. “This is about pushing a political agenda that year after year after year we are pushing abortion bills that end up being struck down in the court.”

Rudd says the bill is based on a similar bill passed in Indiana that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2019.

This bill now heads to Governor Bill Lee’s desk.

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