Bill regulating fetal remains approved by Utah legislative panel

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) In this file photo, Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, speaks with other members in the Senate chambers before the start of the 2016 session of the Utah Legislature. This year, Bramble is sponsoring legislation that regulates the disposal of fetal remains after an abortion or miscarriage.

A bill requiring health care providers to either bury or cremate the fetal remains of an abortion or miscarriage, and allowing mothers to choose between those options, earned committee approval on Friday.

Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-2 along partisan lines to advance SB67 to the full Senate.

Bill sponsor Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said the bill is intended to ensure that fetal remains are treated with dignity and respect, and to provide additional options to women in the state.

“Today, when a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, those remains are treated as medical waste and thrown out as so much refuse,” he said.

Bramble began his presentation to committee members by criticizing media coverage of his bill, saying it had been misrepresented as forcing women to bury or cremate fetal remains. While it does regulate disposal of remains, he said, those requirements are placed on health care providers and not the women who experience a miscarriage or undergo an abortion.

“This bill does not require a woman to dispose of the remains of an aborted fetus,” he said.

But some lawmakers and members of the public objected to the bill, saying it could subject women to additional trauma by requiring them to consider and potentially sign off on disposal methods.

Katie Matheson, communications director for The Alliance for a Better Utah, told the story of her own miscarriage and said the requirements of Bramble’s bill would have made the experience more stressful.

“I’m grateful I didn’t have to have the conversations that this bill would require,” she said.

And Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said she was unable to support the bill while it requires that a woman be notified and of the option to either bury or cremate the remains of their pregnancy.

“I still struggle with that document being put in front of a mom, a woman, at that point,” she said. “I think that’s where I can’t support the bill as is.”

But other speakers, like Utah County resident Alicia Alba, said the bill strikes an appropriate balance between the rights of mothers and the rights of the unborn.

“There is no denying the humanity of the unborn after you have seen them face to face,” she said. “A person is truly a person, no matter how small.”

Bramble, who has sponsored legislation in the past that regulates and restricts abortion, said some health care providers may currently provide disposal options to women. But his bill would ensure that women are given that choice, he said, including the option to dispose of fetal remains themselves.

“Without this bill,” he said, “there wouldn’t be the choice.”