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House approves bill requiring ‘dignified’ treatment of fetal remains

SHARE House approves bill requiring ‘dignified’ treatment of fetal remains

The Capitol Salt Lake City is pictured at sunset on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House fell in line with its Senate counterpart on Wednesday, putting a final stamp of approval on the way fetal remains are to be handled in Utah following a miscarriage or abortion.

If signed by the governor, the amended SB67 would give women who miscarry at any point during gestation a choice for the resulting biological remains to be cremated or buried, or also disposed of as medical waste at the responsibility of the medical facility, should they choose.

“Women who miscarry or abort their babies often deal with grief and regret when not given the chance to decide how the remains of their baby are disposed of,” said Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Syracuse, the House sponsor of the bill.

She said the choice “gives the woman the right to have closure and comfort” following what could be a traumatic and emotional situation.

“All human life deserves to be treated with dignity,” Lisonbee said.

The bill gives a woman 72 hours to decide what to do with the fetal remains, at which time it becomes the duty of the medical facility to take care of it.

Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, amended the bill to include the usual process for medical facilities, which involves disposal of biological remains as medical waste, to be burned. Lawmakers then divided the issue, separating what choices a woman might have following miscarriage or abortion.

“This is not about the method of disposal,” said Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo. “It’s about how we think about human remains.”

“We respect the sanctity of human life however early it is formed or however it is ended,” he said.

The only downside of the bill, said Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, is that it “drives an agenda — a subtle, nonexplicit recognition or promotion of the idea that from the moment of conception, a fetus is entitled to, and has the right to the same constitutional, legal and policy recognition of being a separate individual of the woman carrying the fetus.”

The House voted to allow the choice of medical waste disposal for babies miscarried, but not for those aborted.

Alliance for a Better Utah issued a statement saying, “The purpose of the bill has always been to further the extremist agenda of a small group of people about the deeply personal and sensitive issue of abortion.

“Instead of treating all fetal tissue equally, this bill allows for different treatment based on whether a woman had a miscarriage or an abortion,” the nonprofit continued.

The progressive group notes that Utah already has more than 30 restrictions on abortion, including that it can’t be done beyond 18 weeks of gestation, except in cases of dangers posed to the mother.

“Unless you’re giving women and families every choice, then you’re not actually giving any choice but the one you’re choosing,” said Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City.

The bill returns to the Senate for discussion on the latest amendment.