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Ohio House committee approves bills to impose fetal tissue disposal regulations

The Ohio House Health Committee on Wednesday advanced two bills that would impose fetal tissue disposal requirements under a vaguely worded state regulation, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Sanner, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/13).

Background

Currently, the Ohio Administrative Code holds that "a fetus shall be disposed of in a humane manner," but it does not specify what is considered "humane," nor does it outline penalties for violating the code.

In December, state Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) said the Ohio Department of Health would not enforce the "humane disposal" requirement and will instead work with state lawmakers to clarify the language. His announcement followed a federal court order temporarily blocking the state from taking legal action against Planned Parenthood for allegedly violating the vaguely worded regulation (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/22/15).

Legislation details

The two bills would require that fetal tissue resulting from an abortion be cremated, buried or incinerated.

One of the measures (HB 417) also would require that fetal tissue be incinerated separately from other fetal tissue or medical waste. Those who violate the requirement would be subject to criminal penalties, but a woman who obtained an abortion would be exempt.

The other bill (HB 419), sponsored by state Rep. Barbara Sears (R), would require the state health department to create regulations for incinerating fetal tissue.

The bills were amended after opponents raised confidentiality concerns. According to the AP/Bee, the state requires burial permits for interment or incineration. Those permits require a death certificate, which are available to the public and include identifying information.

The lawmakers amended the measures to establish a new form for providers to obtain burial permits. The form would include a woman's medical identification number, but not her name or signature.

Another amendment gives a woman the option of indicating a preference for cremation, burial or incineration, or to leave that choice to the clinic.

Comments

According to the AP/Bee, opponents of the legislation said the bills not only posed privacy concerns but also are medically unnecessary and unduly burden abortion providers and women.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, criticized the bills, stating, "This is simply yet another way to punish women and the medical community for abortion ... There's no justification other than they want to make abortions more difficult to access" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/13).