Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Wednesday, 2 November 2016


Some US States Have Been Trying To Force Women To Have Funerals For Aborted Foetuses

The Debrief: Some feel that this is as good as anti-abortion legislation in all but name...

As all eyes remain firmly fixed on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the final days of the race to become President of the United States some American states are proposing draconian abortion laws which, frankly, wouldn’t be out of place in a dystopian horror film.

Abortion is legal in America and has been since the landmark ruling which followed the Roe versus Wade in the 70s. However, despite this, several states across the country continue to muck about with restrictive and pernicious legislation which not makes it more difficult for women to get an abortion but deliberately makes the process more unpleasant than it should be.

Back in July Texas, a state with a seriously questionable attitude to reproductive rights, followed in the footsteps of Indiana, Arkansas and Georgia by proposing new rules which would require foetal remains to be cremated or buried. At the time, some interpreted this as meaning that women would be forced to hold actual funerals for their aborted foetuses, however there’s nothing in the draft of the law which explicitly says there has to be a ceremony.

That said, it is still very significant because the rules, proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, state that foetal tissue should be dealt with in a different way to other types of medical waste. They propose special actions and provisions such as burial and cremation.

If the woman who has had an abortion does not want to oversee the disposal of the foetal matter, then it is the hospital’s responsibility to do so. It’s unclear from the draft legislation as to who is expected to fund the required burial or cremation.

Speaking to Associated Press at the time NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director, Heather Busby, said ‘this is a new low for our state’s leaders who are committed to making abortion inaccessible and shaming Texans who have an abortion.’

Essentially, what Texas is trying to do is force people to treat foetal remains, from miscarriages, still births and abortions, as human remains and not medical waste.

The issue is that, for women who choose to have an abortion, this means that the process is not allowed to stop once they have undergone the procedure and forces them to deal with their abortion in moral terms by giving the foetal remains a ‘dignified’ end and, if they opt not to, then abortion providers and funeral directors are forced to take on that responsibility.

The question this raises is why, if a foetus is not legally considered to be human within medical abortion limits, should such requirements be applied as though a person has died, as though a life has ended a death after an abortion? For those who miscarry or are forced to undergo an emergency abortion for health reasons it’s conceivable that a more traditional grieving process and burial or cremation could be useful. However, for those who opt to have an abortion and feel confident in their decision it imposes unnecessary and unfair value judgements on them after the event.

The proposed rules in Texas were published in September. A 30-day public comment period followed and it is as yet, unclear whether or not they have been put into place. The earliest date by which they were expected to become law was October 30th.
And so, the debate about reproductive rights and a woman right to choose what she does with her own body rages on in America. In 2016 28 states have introduced legislation relating to the disposal of foetal remains.

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Tags: Abortion