NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee will soon become the latest state to require certain medical providers to cremate or bury fetal remains from surgical abortions under legislation recently signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee.
Roughly 10 other Republican-majority states have enacted similar laws across the country despite objections from reproductive rights advocates, who argue such requirements are unnecessary and stigmatize a legally available procedure.
However, supporters of such laws contend that it will protect human dignity without interfering with a woman’s abortion choice.
Lee quietly signed off on the measure last week, which will be implemented starting July 1. The vocally anti-abortion governor signed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country last year. That law — which barred abortions at as early as six weeks — was promptly blocked from being implemented due to a legal challenge.
According to the new law, certain medical providers must dispose of fetal remains from surgical abortions by cremation or burial and cover the costs of the disposal.
The measure states that the pregnant woman “has a right to determine” the method and location for the final disposal of the fetal remains if desired, but if she picks a different location she would have to shoulder some cost. Hospitals are excluded under the proposed bill.
The language in the Tennessee law mirrors an Indiana version that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019. In an unsigned opinion, the justices said the case did not involve limits on abortion rights.
Indiana was among the first states to pass fetal-remains laws, in 2016, after anti-abortion activists released undercover video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of fetal tissue. The videos sparked anger from conservatives around the country, but investigations cleared the group of wrongdoing.