Ohio Legislature Passes Bill to Require Burial or Cremation of Aborted Babies

The bill provides for a first-degree misdemeanor charge for anyone who knowingly fails to dispose of fetal remains legally.

Stone statue of a child holding a cross.
Stone statue of a child holding a cross. (photo: Peter Hermes Furian / Shutterstock)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The legislature of Ohio has passed a bill that would require the bodies of babies killed in surgical abortions to be cremated or buried at the abortion clinic’s expense.

Senate Bill 27 would allow women seeking abortions to decide — and put down in writing, via confidential form — whether they would like the remains of their unborn child to be cremated or buried.

If the woman opts not to choose, the abortion facility must choose cremation or burial. The facility would have to pay, unless the woman wants her fetus buried at a different location than the facility provides. The abortion facility would be required to document the subsequent cremation or burial of the remains, and maintain a list of locations that the abortion facility uses to cremate or bury remains.

The bill provides for a first-degree misdemeanor charge for anyone who knowingly fails to dispose of fetal remains legally. The woman who sought the abortion would not be held liable if the abortion facility fails to dispose of the fetal remains in the proper manner.

The new requirements would only apply to surgical abortion providers, and not to medication abortions, miscarriages, or stillbirths.

The Ohio House passed the bill Dec. 3. Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to sign the bill into law should any changes be approved by the Senate. The House has received two similar bills in the past but neither has become law, Cleveland.com reports.

The bill first passed the Ohio Senate during March 2019. It was introduced in the wake of a court decision allowing Ohio to strip abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, of state funding.

Mike Gonidakis, President of Ohio Right to Life, applauded the bill’s passage.

“Whether pro-life or pro-choice, everyone should be able to agree that the bodies of babies should never be thrown into the trash,” Gonidakis said in a Dec. 3 statement.

“The unborn victims of abortion deserve the same basic decency that we afford to all humans: a dignified burial….Although we look forward to the day when we no longer have to lay to rest the broken bodies of Ohio’s abortion victims, we are proud to say that our state has taken another step towards recognizing not only the humanity of the unborn, but of ourselves as well.”

Carolyn Jurkowitz, Executive Director of the Ohio Catholic Conference, told CNA that the OCC has been following and supporting the bill.

Lawmakers in the state have introduced multiple bills that chip away at abortion over the years, imposing limitations of various kinds on abortion in the state, she said.

“I think we have pretty good reason to believe it will make it through this time,” she told CNA.

During May 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld part of an Indiana law requiring aborted babies to be cremated or buried, while declining to take up another part of the law that banned abortions based solely on the sex, race, or disability of the baby.

The 2016 Indiana legislation had been signed into law by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of the state. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law from taking effect.

In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court cited a previous decision that states have a “legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains.”

Pennsylvania has also considered bills to require the burial of fetal remains, though Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto such a measure should it arrive at his desk.

A Texas law from 2016 mandated that fetal tissue from abortions, miscarriages or ectopic pregnancy surgery must be disposed of through burial or cremation, but a federal judge blocked that law in 2018, NPR reported.