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Utah bill requiring cremation after abortion, miscarriage advances

A Utah Senate committee voted 4-2 to advance a bill that would require aborted and miscarried fetal remains to be buried or cremated. (Kristin Murphy | KSL.com)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A Utah Senate committee voted in favor to advance a bill that would require women to bury or cremate the fetal remains after a miscarriage or abortion.

The bill was passed Friday with a 4-2 vote after an emotional debate.

“Today, when a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, those remains are treated as medical waste and thrown out as so much refuse,” sponsor of SB67 Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said.

The will would require hospitals and clinics to either cremate or bury the remains of the fetus. They also must offer the mothers the decision on how they’d like the remains to be disposed.

They can do this by filling out a form that lists the different options. If the mother chooses not to decide, Bramble said she could leave the form empty — allowing for the facility to make the final call.

The bill wouldn’t apply to those who miscarry at home.

While Bramble presented the bill to the Senate, he clarified parts of the legislature that had gotten twisted in the public eye.

“Every once in a while, you get a bill that gets misunderstood and things go viral,” Bramble said.

He said that some have incorrectly interpreted the bill to mean women are required to dispose of the remains themselves, which Bramble said isn’t true.

Some women present at the proposal who support the bill said the legislature would’ve saved them a lot of pain when they miscarried. However, critics say the decision would only increase the trauma of the mother.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, said that during her own miscarriage, she would’ve been “traumatized with a piece of paper” and would’ve “been asking what are we burying.”

Other proponents say the thought of disposing their child haunted them, which is why they are in support of the bill. Not knowing what happens to the fetus after they leave the hospital room isn’t humane, they said.

“This is a human need,” she said. “This is a women’s rights issue, it’s a women’s health issue, and we need to respect that. It doesn’t hurt anyone to give them the option. It only helps if they can choose.”

Senators raised the question on who be would required to pay for the cremation and burials — the mothers or the hospitals and clinics.

Bramble said the Utah abortion bill, as written, does not impose that requirement on the woman, but doesn’t specify whether the clinics would attach the cost to the hospital bill.

According to the written legislation, the woman is only responsible for the cost if she chooses to cremate or bury at different location than the hospital she’s admitted to. It doesn’t require women to find out how the medical facility disposes of the remains.

If she decides how the fetus will be disposed, a record of it will go into her medical history, Bramble said.

“On a woman’s side of the equation, it gives her one more choice. It gives her the choice to do nothing, or it gives her the choice to say ‘I’d like to have the remains, whether it’s from abortion or miscarriage, I’d like to have these remains treated with dignity,’” Bramble said on Thursday.

Some opponents, like Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, said the cost of the cremation or burial was directly related to accessibility. She added that the law dictates a woman should have access to an abortion.

The next day on Friday, Bramble presented a replacement bill that would allow the facility to accumulate multiple remains for up to 120 days, disposing of them at the same time to save money. This was a change from the original bill, which only allowed up to 10 days.

President of Pro-Life Utah Mary Taylor said this simultaneous cremation would eliminate the cost concern. With this 120-day window, calculations show it would cost $1.80 to cremate each fetus simultaneously with others.

Taylor added that for Utah’s post-abortive support group through Pro-Life, one of the biggest traumas is women dealing with the knowledge of what happened to their baby.

The abortion bill passed the Utah Senate vote, advancing to another hearing in the state legislative session that will continue Monday.