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Ohio GOP Lawmakers: Force Women to Make Arrangements for Fetal Remains

Jenn Stanley

The requirement to bury or cremate aborted fetuses isn’t new, but it's gaining momentum. Indiana and Arkansas lawmakers passed similar bills this year and Wisconsin is considering it.

With Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s months-long investigation into Planned Parenthood’s alleged fetal tissue sales turning up nothing, GOP lawmakers in the state have moved on to targeting fetal disposal.

Republican lawmakers have announced plans to introduce legislation that would require women who have abortions or miscarriages to designate arrangements for burial or cremation of the product of conception.

The requirement to bury or cremate aborted fetuses isn’t new, but it’s gaining momentum. Indiana and Arkansas legislators passed similar bills this year and Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated legislature is considering it. Anti-choice group Americans United for Life drafted copycat legislation for GOP-majority legislatures called the “Unborn Infants Dignity Act.”

When an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress released its surreptitiously recorded and deceptively edited videos about Planned Parenthood “selling fetal parts,” it sparked a wave of inflammatory rhetoric and anti-choice legislation. The House of Representatives and state governments have investigated and found no wrongdoing, but that hasn’t stopped GOP legislators from trying to defund Planned Parenthood and place burdens on women seeking abortion care.

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“Whether they are selling body parts or simply tossing them into landfills doesn’t matter to me anymore,” state Rep. Kyle Koehler told Ohio Public Radio. Koehler is one of the sponsors of the bill that would force women who undergo abortions at clinics or are treated for miscarriages at hospitals to sign a form choosing between burial or cremation for the fetal remains. The facility would be forced to cover the cost, but that burden could be passed on to patients.

Rep. Robert McColley (R) told Ohio Public Radio that the state does not record the names of women who have had abortions, and that the goal of the signatures is not to start a statewide registry. However, signatures will be mandatory and part of state records.

Planned Parenthood officials say the allegations that they inhumanely dispose of fetuses are inflammatory. Officials at the organization say that they use the same practices as other health-care providers, which generally dispose of medical waste through contractors. Pro-choice advocates agree.

“It is just the latest in the constantly changing, medically unnecessary legal hoops that abortion providers and their patients must jump through,” Kellie Copeland, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement.

Ohio’s GOP-majority legislature has pushed a staunch anti-choice agenda in recent years, particularly under the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich, a 2016 presidential candidate. Last month, the house voted to pull public funding for Planned Parenthood. Kasich in 2013 signed a two-year budget bill that included, among other anti-choice measures, stringent new licensing regulations for abortion clinics in the state. It resulted in the closure of half of Ohio’s outpatient abortion clinics.

Kasich appointed Michael L. Gonidakis, president of the anti-choice organization Ohio Right to Life, to the State of Ohio Medical Board.

“Governor John Kasich has enacted more restrictions on access to reproductive health care—including safe, legal abortion and family planning services—than any governor in memory,” Copeland said in a statement last March. “None of his policies will help prevent unintended pregnancy and therefore the need for abortion. In fact, quite the opposite. And more anti-choice measures are pending in the Ohio Legislature. On top of all of that, Governor Kasich is abusing his regulatory authority in an attempt to close abortion clinics across Ohio.”

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