Activist Groups Expect More States To Take Up New Anti-Abortion Measures

Dec 12, 2016
Originally published on December 13, 2016 7:47 am
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Texas isn't alone in this. Its regulations requiring the burial of aborted fetuses are part of a wave of such measures nationwide. NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports they came out of last year's videos targeting Planned Parenthood.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Remember those videos? Anti-abortion activists went undercover secretly recording conversations with abortion providers.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Excuse me. Can we get the wine menu again?

LUDDEN: The video's maker accused Planned Parenthood of unlawfully selling fetal tissue. There's no evidence of that, but there were still congressional hearings and a dozen state investigations. That's when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced this...

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MIKE DEWINE: Fetuses from abortions are being cooked and then put into landfills and mixed in with all the other garbage that's out there. I think it's just wrong.

LUDDEN: By cooking he meant sterilized with steam. There was no violation of the law there, either. But DeWine's comments helped spark a different kind of protest, this time behind clinics where medical waste is picked up.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The babies are God's property.

LUDDEN: In this recording from Bakersfield, Calif., two protesters talk to a man as he hoists a red plastic bin into a big white truck.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Will you allow us to have a burial for the babies?

LUDDEN: She wants a burial for the baby. Mark Harrington of Created Equal helps organize these protests. He'd rather shut down abortion providers altogether, but he pushed Ohio lawmakers to mandate burial or cremation after abortion. The bill did not pass, but Harrington thinks it would have had a big impact on women.

MARK HARRINGTON: It goes without saying that if she's given the option to cremate or bury, she's going to maybe wonder that this isn't just some kind of blob of tissue, that this actually may be a child and she may choose not to abort.

LUDDEN: Other supporters of such laws don't put it that way at all. Kristi Hamrick is with Americans United for Life.

KRISTI HAMRICK: These efforts have nothing to do with abortion.

LUDDEN: Last year her group put out model legislation for states, the unborn infants dignity act. Like the Texas rule, it requires health facilities to bury or cremate embryos or fetal remains after an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

HAMRICK: What we're saying is it needs to be humane and the mother needs to be given the opportunity to have a say and be informed with what's happening.

TALCOTT CAMP: There's nothing about these laws that's humane for the woman or treats her with dignity.

LUDDEN: Talcott Camp is with the ACLU, which challenged a fetal burial law in Indiana this year. It was signed by then-governor-now-vice-president-elect Mike Pence. A court has blocked that law while the case plays out. Another law in Louisiana is on hold. In Texas, Camp points out the regulation was approved by the state health department.

CAMP: This new regulation is supposed to protect the public from sort of infectious disease risks. There is clearly no link, clearly no link between that regulation and that kind of public health protection.

LUDDEN: Nancy Northup is with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is suing to stop the Texas rule. She worries the cost of burial or cremation will be passed on to women.

NANCY NORTHUP: And so not only do they make it more expensive to access abortion services, but they interfere with women's ability to make their own decisions.

LUDDEN: Northup's center helped win a big Supreme Court case against another Texas abortion law this year. That left the state footing the bill.

NORTHUP: Millions of dollars of legal fees, and that runs the risk of happening here as well.

LUDDEN: Still, Americans United for Life expects more states to take up fetal burial mandates next year. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.