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Utah House committee backs bill requiring burial, cremation of fetal remains

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, presents SB67, which would require aborted and miscarried fetal remains to be buried or cremated, during a hearing before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate Building at the Capitol complex in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, presents SB67, which would require aborted and miscarried fetal remains to be buried or cremated, during a hearing before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate Building at the Capitol complex in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers on Thursday again heard pleas from the public saying that having the option to bury or cremate the remains of a baby miscarried prior to 20 weeks gestation might be too much to bear after the loss of a baby.

“I don’t see that as a huge burden,” Rep. Brad Daw, R-Taylorsville, said during the House Health and Human Services Committee meeting. He said for many women, having the option to do something — whether it be cremation, burial or medical disposal of the remains of their baby — “is incredibly healing and incredibly important.”

“Women absolutely need to have this option if and when they miscarry,” Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, said, adding “my concern is that ... while women get a choice, they only get this choice.”

SB667, which requires “respectful disposal” of fetal remains, has been controversial since it was introduced.

Bill sponsor Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said a large part of that is due to “misinformation” spread by the media. Specifically, he said, a recent KUTV headline that said women would be responsible to deal with the disposal themselves, which “is completely false.”

“These children, these tiny human beings and their mothers deserve better,” said Deanna Holland, vice president at Pro Life Utah, who has experienced two miscarriages.

Similarly, Utah Eagle Forum Director Gayle Ruzicka, who has also lost babies prior to their due date, said “no matter when I miscarried, the grief was the same because it was a baby.”

“This isn’t a burden to have to make this decision,” she said. “It’s just the opposite. It is part of the healing. It goes on.”

Currently, hospitals will dispose of fetal remains (the medical term for a fetus under 20 weeks old), Bramble said, with no mention of what will be done with them except that they are “medical waste.”

“There ought to be a way that the remains be treated with respect,” he said, adding that his proposal provides a choice “if the woman has a preference.”

“That’s what’s happening to these infants today — they’re being regarded as trash,” Bramble said.

The law would not apply to babies miscarried at home, which is the case for the majority of miscarriages, according to Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Utah chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Opponents of the bill believe the decision amplifies the grief of losing a baby preterm.

Katie Matheson, of the Alliance for a Better Utah, said she is grateful she didn’t have to make this decision following her own miscarriage, as “the added weight of the requirements of this law ... add unnecessary bureaucracy” to an already difficult situation.

The bill “imposes a moral issue on how a woman decides to move on,” Jasmine Velasquez, a senior at the University of Utah, told members of the committee.

The committee recommended the bill move to the House for consideration, with three members dissenting. It passed the Senate on Feb. 11 with a 22-6 vote.