Tennessee Senate passes bill requiring fetal remains to be buried, cremated

Bill now headed to Gov. Bill Lee's desk
Posted at 10:36 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 21:18:44-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/AP) — The Tennessee Senate has passed a bill that would require medical providers to cremate or bury fetal remains from surgical abortions. The bill is now headed to Gov. Bill Lee's desk for signature.

The bill passed 27 – 6 during Wednesday’s vote in the Senate. The Tennessee House advanced the legislation two days ago.

It would require either the woman having the abortion or the health care facility to pay for the handling of the process.

The proposal has sparked criticism among reproductive rights advocates, who argue such measures are unnecessary and would stigmatize a legally available procedure. Representatives from Planned Parenthood have said they strongly opposed the measure. They believe it's meant to cause shame for women seeking an abortion.

"Make no mistake, this legislation is a direct attack on Planned Parenthood, a trusted health care provider across our state. The so-called dignity that this bill would provide only extends to fetal remains from clinics, but not from hospitals and not from medication abortions or miscarriages at home. This lays bare that this is a targeted regulation of abortion providers and intended to shame patients. We have real health issues in Tennessee, and if politicians don’t want to be part of the solution, they should get out of our way.”

- Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood

However, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Rudd of Murfreesboro, said he's trying to create a process to treat aborted fetuses with dignity. According to the bill, medical providers must dispose of fetal remains from surgical abortions by cremation or burial and cover the costs of the disposal.

At least 10 other states have enacted similar requirements, though legal challenges persist.