A New Assault on Abortion Rights

Ohio's state attorney claims Planned Parenthood is violating state law by dumping fetal remains in landfills.
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Ohio's state attorney claims Planned Parenthood is violating state law by dumping fetal remains in landfills.
(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In Ohio, women who have abortions may soon be forced to sign off on a form that would send fetal remains for burial or cremation, if new legislation passes in the state. The proposed law is "not politically motivated," according to its Republican and anti-abortion rights backers, but, if passed, the extra costs associated with burial and cremation would fall on the clinics and facilities where abortions take place, which could then be passed on to the women who seek out these services, Ohio Public Radio reports. These new costs could even lead to the closure of some clinics that lack the money or facilities to carry out the required disposal practices.

The legal maneuver is just the latest thinly veiled attempt to stigmatize abortion and limit access to the procedure. Earlier this year, the state's attorney general, Mike DeWine, began investigating Ohio's Planned Parenthood Clinics after an anti-abortion video suggesting the organization was making money by selling—rather than purely donating—fetal tissues went viral. The notion that Planned Parenthood was trying to profit from "selling baby parts" has been widely discredited, with the exonerating evidence evident in the leaked video itself, according to Daniel Levitan at Factcheck.org.

DeWine announced last week that his office would take action against three clinics in the state for their disposal practices for fetal remains, claiming that Planned Parenthood's contracted medical waste company was "cooking" and dumping remains in landfills. DeWine's main argument is that these procedures violate state law, which requires that fetal remains be disposed in a "humane" way. DeWine's accusations have brought renewed attention and support to the proposed legislation for fetal burials or cremation, which was initially drafted last year.

But Planned Parenthood vehemently denies that its disposal practices violate any laws. Over at Vox, Emily Crockett exposed the flaws in DeWine's case:

For starters, Planned Parenthood has never in 41 years been cited for violating the state's "humane disposal" policy on fetal remains. But more than that, DeWine's press conference made clear that what he colorfully called "steam cooking" is actually standard for processing infectious medical waste, which includes fetal remains and other human tissue, in the state of Ohio. Human tissue is a biohazard, and so it has to be disinfected before it's disposed of—either through incineration, chemical treatment, or autoclaving, which is the procedure DeWine specifically referred to in his press conference and which is also clearly included as a valid method of disinfection in the Ohio code. And once the medical waste is treated, the code says it can be sent to any solid waste facility.

The legislation that lawmakers threw together in response to DeWine's investigation and subsequent legal action is still full of gaping holes as well. It's unclear what these burial and cremation practices will look like: Will there be a designated cemetery? Will cremations have to be carried out at funeral homes? There are also concerns that forcing women to sign off on these disposal procedures effectively creates a registry of women who've had abortions in the state (something probably only Ann Coulter is crazy enough to publicly advocate for).

The new legislation looks more like an attempt to shame women by bringing the sometimes unappealing details that accompany nearly every medical procedure to the forefront, rather than merely a legal means of ensuring the unborn are respected.

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