Reproductive Rights Advocates Say Ohio Fetal Remains Bill Is Unconstitutional

Reproductive rights and civil liberties groups condemned as “unconstitutional and medically unnecessary” a bill signed into law Wednesday by Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains resulting from abortion.

Senate Bill 27, an update of a 1975 law, requires the “humane disposition of the product of human conception” — specifically, any “zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus,” either by “burial or entombment” or cremation “in a crematory facility.”

Under the law, anyone having an abortion in Ohio will be notified beforehand that they can choose the method and location of fetal disposition. If they do not choose, it is up to the abortion provider to decide and pay for the burial or cremation. Healthcare providers who do not comply face potential first-degree misdemeanor charges that carry a $1,000 fine and up to six months in prison.

As state attorney general, DeWine conducted an investigation into unfounded allegations that Planned Parenthood of Ohio profited from the sale of aborted fetuses. However, the probe found that fetal remains had been disposed of in landfills, sparking outrage from anti-abortion advocates and prompting the new law.

As governor, DeWine has been a consistent foe of reproductive rights. Last year, he signed a so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill, one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-choice laws, that was subsequently challenged in court by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio and the ACLU. Last July, a judge temporarily blocked the law pending further litigation.

Both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU blasted the updated fetal remains law.

“The only purpose of Senate Bill 27 is to further stigmatize/shame abortion and attack abortion providers across the state,” tweeted Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. “During a global pandemic, the *only* priority for Ohio Republicans is restricting access to safe, legal abortion.”

In a statement against the measure earlier this month Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, vice president of government affairs and public advocacy at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said that “in the middle of a pandemic, Republican lawmakers are working yet again to strip Ohioans of their health care and trying to close health centers.”

“Not only is Senate Bill 27 unconstitutional and medically unnecessary, it also adds yet another barrier for patients who are trying to access abortion services — which is the legislature’s real goal,” added Blauvelt-Copelin. “This bill is about politics. It’s about forcing health centers to close. Ohioans deserve better.”

Planned Parenthood also noted that “Senate Bill 260 — which bans the use of telemedicine or medication abortions — is currently sitting on DeWine’s desk.”