News Abortion

Wisconsin Legislature Considers ‘Fetal Remains’ Bill

Robin Marty

AB 252 would require fetal remains to be handled through "burial, interment, entombment, cremation, incineration, or delivery to a medical or dental school anatomy department as an anatomical gift." But the bill's sponsor says telling patients about this process would place an "undue burden" on them.

AB 252 is a new bill in the Wisconsin assembly that would require doctors who perform abortions after ten weeks’ gestation to arrange for fetal remains to be handled through “burial, interment, entombment, cremation, incineration, or delivery to a medical or dental school anatomy department as an anatomical gift.” The same must also be arranged if the resulting fetus was not as advanced but “reached the stage of development that, upon visual inspection of the fetus or part of the fetus, the head, torso, or extremities appear to be supported by skeletal or cartilaginous structures.” Any failure to do so would result in a $1,000 fine for the doctor.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay), said the bill shouldn’t be a burden for abortion providers since such arrangements are “often inexpensive.” However, Rep. Bies said that telling the patient about the burial or cremation (or other process) or asking for her preference would place an “undue burden” on her. “It might create a deterrent to people deciding on abortion if they realize we are talking about human beings,” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “They use these different terms. That they are disposing of the medical waste or whatever de-emphasizes that we are dealing with a human being.”

This comes after the Wisconsin legislature recently sent a forced ultrasound bill to the governor for signature. The justification for the bill was that ultrasounds and listening to an embryonic or fetal heartbeat, even when medically unnecessary and not what the pregnant person wants to undergo, are a form of “informed consent.”

Rep. Bies said he modeled the AB 252 after a bill that was proposed in Michigan, which focused on all fetal remains, worrying many reproductive rights supporters that women who suffer a miscarriage would be made to decide on the spot what to do about burial or cremation. The proposal was rolled into an omnibus anti-choice bill that passed via lame-duck session in 2012.

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The desire to “properly” dispose of remains after an abortion has been a long fixation of the anti-choice movement, which has devoted considerable efforts to produce “memorials” for embryos, fetuses, and other medical products from clinics that they have either “rescued” or found over the decades. Most recently, anti-choice activists petitioned the city of Philadelphia to request the fetuses and medical evidence used in the trial of Kermit Gosnell, demanding they be allowed to provide the “babies” with a proper funeral. After being rebuked, they held a ceremony where they named them instead.

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