Governor’s bill on fetal remains making progress through legislature
Published 9:02 am Monday, April 4, 2016
One of Gov. Bill Haslam’s key pieces of legislation for this session of the Tennessee General Assembly dealing with the disposition of fetal remains has cleared many of the hurdles in its path to becoming a law.
Haslam has said one of the reasons he added the Fetal Remains Act to his legislative agenda for the session was to address concerns raised regarding the selling of human fetal tissue.
In 2015, a series of videos released on the internet led to a public outcry from people on both sides of the abortion debate. The videos reportedly showed officials with the Planned Parenthood organization discussing the sale of tissues and organs collected from aborted fetuses.
Federal law prohibits a doctor or medical practice from selling tissues or organs collected from aborted fetuses, but law does allow the doctor or agency to recoup fees associated the recovery or transport of those tissues and organs.
In the wake of the videos, many people shifted their focus to regulations regarding the collecting of fetal tissues.
Haslam’s Fetal Remains Act requires increased reporting of the disposition of fetal remains, prohibits reimbursement of any costs associated with shipping an aborted fetus or fetal remains, and establishes a mandatory interim assessment process for ambulatory surgical treatment center performing more than 50 abortions annually.
“The Fetal Remains Act strengthens accountability and transparency for surgery centers performing abortions,” Haslam said.
House Bill 2577, also known as The Fetal Remains Act, was recommended for passage by the House Health Committee on March 30 and referred to the Government Operations Committee that same day. This is the last committee the bill must navigate through before being brought to the full House floor for a vote.
The Act’s companion bill in the Tennessee Senate (Senate Bill 2568) was passed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22 and recommended for passage by the full Senate. The bill was scheduled to be discussed on the Senate floor on March 31, but the Senate deferred action until April 7.
If enacted, the Fetal Remains Act would revise various provisions already in place in state law regarding fetal remains and would require that the disposition of fetal remains be in conformity with the rules of the board for licensing health care facilities.
Under current state law, it is a Class E felony for a person, agency, corporation, partnership or association to “offer or accept money or anything of value for an aborted fetus.”
The proposed bill would extend that prohibition to include fetal remains and additionally would prohibit a person, agency, corporation, partnership, or association from accepting any reimbursement of any costs associated with the preparation, preservation, transfer, shipping, or handling of an aborted fetus or fetal remains.
Currently, state law already requires a physician performing an abortion to keep a record of each operation and to also make a report to the commissioner of health regarding each procedure.
The Fetal Remains Act would add to that the requirement to report the disposition of any fetal remains, including the method of disposition. If the fetal remains are transferred to a third party, the physician must include the name and address of the third party in their report to the commissioner of health.