The Tennessee House has approved a measure that would require tissue from abortions to be cremated or buried.
If the measure passes the state Senate, backers say Tennessee would be the 12th state to require mortuary services after an abortion.
Backers describe House Bill 1181/Senate Bill 828 as an attempt to give more dignity to aborted remains. In committee hearings, and before a 69-22 vote on the House floor Monday night, they’ve given often graphic descriptions of fetal remains being thrown out.
State Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, says she came across fetal remains in the morgue while working as a hospital nurse.
“It’s not fetal tissue,” she said. “It’s dismembered children. … We’re going to treat them as they are — the created human that is pre-born.”
But the law applies only to abortions conducted in clinics. Hospitals would not have to cremate or bury aborted tissue, and police would be able to keep the tissue for investigations. It also does not apply to biologically identical tissue from miscarriages.
Opponents highlighted those contradictions to argue the proposal is really an attempt to traumatize people who get abortions.
“All I’m going to say is this is one of the most offensive pieces of legislation I’ve heard this year — offensive for women who’ve actually had to bury children,” said state Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis. “What you are doing is further using your legislative powers to bring trauma on women who decide to make that choice. Yet, we’re not doing anything else in the legislature to support other women and their ability to have safe pregnancies.”
The law would mean state officials will track and report on how tissue from abortions is disposed of, and it would require either the person who receives the abortion or the provider to pay for mortuary services.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld such requirements, saying they do not infringe on the right to an abortion.