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Tennessee moves toward requiring cremation or burial after abortion

Medical providers would be required to cremate or bury fetal remains after surgical abortions under a us-regions bill that passed the House and Senate. 

The legislation passed the state House along party lines 69-22 Monday and 27-6 in the Senate. It now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Bill lee for signature. 

Under the bill, certain abortion providers must provide burial or cremation and cover the costs. The pregnant woman would be able to determine the method and location to lay the remains. The bill would apply to abortion clinics but hospitals would be exempt as they already have specific processes in place. 

Supporters of the bill say it is designed to protect human dignity. 

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“This legislation strives to extend the same protections, respect and dignity to a deceased, surgically aborted child as granted to any other deceased human being,” said Republican Sen. Janice Bowling, the bill sponsor.

“It’s not fetal tissue, it’s dismembered children,” said state Rep. Robin Smith (R).

Democrats said the bill would further inflict “trauma” on those who choose to undergo abortions. 

“This is one of the most offensive pieces of legislation I’ve heard this year,” said Democratic Rep. London Lamar, who experienced a late-term pregnancy loss in 2019. “Offensive for women who actually have had to bury children.”

“This is not a pro-life piece of legislation. What you are doing is further using your legislative powers to bring trauma on women who make that choice,” Lamar, from Memphis, argued.

The Tennessee governor has not publicly weighed in on the legislation but has reiterated that he is staunchly pro-life.

Indiana first passed a similar fetal remains law in 2016, after activists recorded video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue to scientists. Indiana’s law was upheld by the Supreme Court, which said it did not infringe on abortion rights. 

Since then, at least 10 other states have enacted similar requirements, though legal challenges persist. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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