2022 State Legislative Sessions: An Overview on Fetal Dignity

2022 State Legislative Sessions: An Overview on Fetal Dignity

In April 2022, Americans were shocked by the news and pictures (warning: graphic images) of the bodies of five fully developed unborn babies that had been recovered from a Washington, D.C., abortion facility after having been put in boxes to be disposed of as medical waste, a practice that is legal in D.C. Sadly, this case of the “D.C. Five,” is just one of many examples of fetal remains being treated in such an undignified manner.

Clearly, strong laws at the state and local levels are needed to ensure that fetal remains are treated with respect, and that abortionists who fail to comply are held accountable.

Thankfully, many state legislators and their constituents have recognized the inescapable truth of the dignity and humanity of the unborn and the need to recognize the significance of such lives being lost. In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s role in trafficking baby body parts to buy and sell for research purposes, and state legislators responded by introducing legislation to stop these horrific practices. More recently, state legislators have proposed other ways to recognize the dignity of the unborn including providing a death certificate, tax credit, and/or bereavement leave when a child is miscarried or stillborn.

Fetal dignity laws share one thing in common: They affirm the human dignity of each unborn life lost. They may do so with one or more of the following provisions:

  • Require abortionists to bury or cremate unborn children after an abortion.
  • Prohibit the sale of (or, in some cases, prohibiting the profiting from) baby body parts.
  • Prohibit the transfer of fetal remains.
  • Prohibit the use of fetal remains for research (or, in some cases, prohibiting the public funding of research involving fetal remains).
  • Provide death certificates for miscarried or stillborn babies.
  • Provide an income tax credit to parents of miscarried or stillborn babies.
  • Provide bereavement leave to parents of miscarried or stillborn babies.

This issue has seen a shift in the last few years. Although early fetal dignity bills (in the aftermath of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos) focused predominantly on the treatment of fetal remains, newer bills are acknowledging the profound loss of miscarriage and stillbirth through the provision of death certificates, tax credits, and bereavement leave to parents. These bills tend to garner bipartisan support and have been enacted in blue states such as California, Delaware, and Nevada. It seems that pro-abortion legislators are willing to acknowledge the loss of an unborn child as such, provided the baby was wanted by the parents. The value of such bills to educate the public on the dignity of every unborn human life cannot be overstated.

This year, 14 states have introduced fetal dignity legislation (and another 8 states carried over legislation from last year). Bills providing bereavement leave to parents of miscarried or stillborn children have seen the largest upturn; of the 67 fetal dignity bills FRC has tracked during states’2021-22 legislative sessions, nearly half (31) of these have been bereavement bills. In fact, one of the two fetal dignity bills enacted this year was a Utah bill providing bereavement leave to parents who experience a stillbirth or miscarriage.

Here are the fetal dignity bills that have been enacted so far this year:

  • Utah H.B. 449/S.B. 63 require the governing body of each municipality to provide their employees with at least three days of paid bereavement leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth (this includes the mother and her current or former spouse/partner or the biological father of the child).
  • Iowa S.F. 577 allows parents who experience a non-viable birth (defined as the unintentional fetal demise occurring after the heartbeat is detected but before the 20th week of gestation) to request a certificate of non-viable birth and requires healthcare providers to inform parents who experience a non-viable birth of this option.

Also introduced this year:

  • West Virginia H.B. 4005 and H.B. 2239 were two strong bills that would have prohibited selling, transferring, or using fetal body parts from an induced abortion and imposed criminal penalties (a misdemeanor for H.B. 4005 and a felony for H.B. 2239) for noncompliance. Either one of these bills would have moved West Virginia from “no protections” to “good protections” on FRC’s Fetal Dignity map.
  • Missouri H.B. 2012 and S.B. 737 went beyond the provisions typically seen in fetal dignity bills. These bills would have prohibited anyone from knowingly donating or making an anatomical gift of fetal organs or tissue resulting from an abortion to any person or entity for any use and imposed criminal and professional penalties for noncompliance. In response to several reports of abortionists who keep fetal remains, these bills would have also established the crime of hoarding aborted human remains, established criminal penalties for noncompliance, and required a person found guilty of this crime to undergo psychological or psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

Although positive actions took place this year, only 11 states currently have strong fetal dignity laws. Half of our nation’s states have either weak fetal dignity protections or none at all. With the overturn of Roe v. Wade and pro-abortion states going to new extremes to abet abortion, more states need to pass laws to prevent horrors like that of the D.C. Five from happening elsewhere, and the abortion industry must not be allowed to profit a second time from its barbarism through the trafficking of fetal remains. In the coming state legislative sessions, legislators—especially those in blue states—should run legislation to ensure that fetal remains are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.