February 26, 2016

Exposure of fetal remains disposal practices prompts legislative action

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A state investigation exposing disposal practices of fetal remains prompted a heightened need to take legislative action during the final weeks of February. The Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) agrees that proper handling of fetal remains should be addressed this year.

A bill requiring fetal remains to be buried or cremated gained momentum in the Senate on Feb. 17 as the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee heard testimony. A day earlier, The Indianapolis Star reported the findings of an investigation that a local company violated its permit, and was fined more than $11,000 for improperly disposing of fetal tissue.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) investigation found that MedAssure, a waste disposal company on the west side of Indianapolis, accepted three to six 31-gallon containers per week over the past four years, including some that held remains from a Missouri lab that services Planned Parenthood. Indiana’s investigation was prompted by a video sting operation conducted by the Center for Medical Progress, which has gained national attention and revealed possible unethical fetal tissue handling practices by Planned Parenthood.

The fetal remains proposal, House Bill 1337, authored by Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, seeks to address this concern. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, presented the bill before the Senate panel, saying, “I have a company in my district that was just fined by IDEM for disposing of fetal remains without the proper permit.”

He said the question is not whether the company had the proper permit or not, but whether lawmakers think it is OK to dispose of human bodies in the undignified way that they used.

“There are four other companies in Indiana that dispose of fetal remains basically by putting them into a grinder, much the way that sausage is made, grinding the body up into parts and then putting them into a landfill,” Young said. “We just don’t think that’s the proper way to dispose of a human body.”

Young said House Bill 1337 prohibits any company from either bringing in or shipping out “the bodies of little babies” that are the result of a miscarriage or abortion, and designates the remains are to be cremated or buried. Under the bill, fetal remains would not be considered medical waste.

Another aspect of the bill requires private informed consent related to the disposal of fetal remains from a woman seeking abortion. Young said the reason for private informed consent is quite clear. “If the mother has a question, she might be uncomfortable or embarrassed to ask if it is done in a group setting.”

Cathy Humbarger of Indiana Right to Life told the Senate panel, “There is nothing in this bill that limits the legal right for a woman to have an abortion. In fact, it gives her more information to make her choice.

“Narrowing the method of disposal for aborted babies does not limit access to a woman seeking an abortion because the baby is already dead.” She added the legislation directs how and where the babies’ bodies will be handled.

Humbarger said there have been numerous accounts of aborted babies being found in dumpsters, on loading docks and being ground up in garbage disposals in abortion facilities. She added that aborted babies are being ground up in waste treatment plants, or microwaved to remove toxicity and being dumped in landfills.

“Several states have outlawed dumping aborted babies in landfills, yet that is still legal in Indiana. Landfills are for garbage, not the bodies of aborted babies,” Humbarger said. “What we do know is aborted babies from Missouri are being sent to Indiana and dumped in landfills.”

Also testifying in support of the bill was Glenn Tebbe, executive director for the ICC.

“It is well established that the Catholic Church is opposed to abortion. Although because abortion is legal, we believe regulation of it is in the common good,” he said. “We see this issue as important because it ensures proper care and disposal of a fetus given the sacred nature of the human person. Treating the dead with respect is a duty, and we believe by doing this we are reminded of our own mortality, and it provides for the common good.”

Testifying in opposition to the bill was Peggy Stover of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. She said her group is one of the state’s “leading and most trusted” providers of “non-judgmental” health care. Stover said House Bill 1337 is a “bill about judging women, and limiting access to abortion.” Dr. Sue Ellen Braunlin of Indiana Religious Reproductive Choice echoed Stover, saying that the bill’s purpose is to “shame women.”

In his closing remarks, Cox said that there are far more respectful ways than incinerating the fetal remains or dumping them in a landfill. “We are here for one reason only, to give dignity to the lives that were lost either in abortion or miscarriage.”

House Bill 1337 passed the House 74-23 on Feb 2. Tebbe said the proposal has a good chance of passing the Senate by the end of month.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion. For more information about the Indiana Catholic Conference, its Indiana Catholic Action Network and the bills it is following in the Indiana General Assembly this year, log on to www.indianacc.org.)

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