“Fetal Remains” Bill Pleases Anti-Choice, Traumatizes Women Who Miscarry


When Michigan anti-choicers claimed they found “fetal remains” in a dumpster at an abortion clinic, state Republicans quickly stepped up to push a bill legislating how products of conception could be discarded.

In the end, it turns out that there was no proof of mishandled remains.  But a law was proposed regardless, and because of it, one of the first questions that may be asked of a woman who just miscarried or had a still birth is likely to be “what do you want to do with the fetus?”

Via the Detroit News:

“I think some women will be devastated,” says Joanne Mulhere, who counsels women undergoing loss of pregnancies at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, where about 175 women lose pregnancies through miscarriage or stillbirth annually.

Patients would be handed Kleenex, as well as a form to sign, requesting the remains be cremated, buried or interred.

They’ll be forced to make a potentially emotional choice that will, for some women, redefine how they think and feel.

It’s a “choice” that effectively reframes the way women are supposed to think about early pregnancy, imposing new opportunities for grief where none might have existed.

Unfortunately, Michigan legislators have crafted a bill that’s more sensitive to the needs of tissue that fits in a tablespoon than to grown women who, at vulnerable moments, will face a new form to sign, an unsought, disturbing decision to make.

Yet another thoughtless bill with unintended consequences that will hurt more women.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

Follow Robin Marty on twitter: @robinmarty

  • crowepps

    Patients would be handed Kleenex, as well as a form to sign, requesting the remains be cremated, buried or interred.

    As a woman who has had several miscarriages, I’ve got to say, this is revolting.  I never thought at all about what was being done with the fetus, and my doctors didn’t put any pressure on me to choose a ‘right’ answer by asking such questions.

    I have heard of people burying a late or full-term stillborn but at 9 weeks isn’t most of what’s removed placenta?  Even at 20 weeks there just isn’t much ‘fetus’ there to dispose of.

    Is there even any social provision for this at funeral homes and cemetaries?  What does ‘cremated’ mean?  Burned by the hospital along with the placenta and the rest of the medical waste?  Taken to the funeral home (at a cost of $1000 or more) and then returned in a little urn the size of a thimble?  What does ‘buried’ mean?   Are they talking about ‘sent to the landfill’?   Cemetaries don’t  have six inch by six inch plots for 12 week fetuses. ‘Interred’?  Somebody has TOMBS for medical waste?

    Or is all this angst just about voluntary abortions?  Just another way to make women feel like crap?  The legislature of Michigan has obviously been taken over by religious fanatics and ideologues.

  • robin-marty

    “Or is all this angst just about voluntary abortions?  Just another way to make women feel like crap?”

  • ahunt

    I cannot even speak to this…

  • crowepps

    I certainly had to contend with a red mist of rage as I put together the statements in the original article:

    “the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, couldn’t recall how miscarrying in a hospital might be affected by his bill. He referred me to a staff member who insisted that it would have no impact on miscarriages before 20 weeks of gestation.”

    and

    Ed Rivet, legislative director of Right to Life of Michigan, who has diligently crafted the bills over almost five years, acknowledges that hospitals would have women “sign a form” choosing how they want fetal remains disposed of after a miscarriage, after 10 weeks of gestation or when there’s visible fetal remains.

    and in particular

    The subject is a delicate one, and even taboo, which may explain why the bills passed with little debate or even opposition from hospitals, doctors or funeral directors, who will play new roles if the bills move through the House of Representatives.

    All of which in total combines to give this picture: as a delicate subject considered taboo, nobody wants to talk about this, except for obsessed ideologue Ed Rivet, who has spent five years obsessing about fetal funerals and planning to load one more burden of pain on the women he hates and wants to control, and since the Republican party is in thrall to obsessed ideologues, Rivet has leverage with State Senator Jones, who has sponsored this without having a clue what it will really do, and since his staff is equally ignorant women will just have to depend on the *snicker* compassion and good sense of Ed Rivet, the Self-appointed Representative of the Unborn Corpse.

    I mean, heck, it might mean VOTES, so why not pass it and then see if the hospitals, doctors and funeral directors can find a way to make additional money by bludgeoning women in crisis with “new opportunities for grief”.  After all, the only ones who will be negatively affected are women and who cares about them?  Except, of course, insofar as their potential nervous breakdowns spread the opportunity for profit to the mental health community as well.

    If women don’t like being driven to despair by total strangers with weird ideas, then they shouldn’t have sex!

  • equalist

    The next question is, in the case of a woman who miscarries at home in the toilet or in very, very early pregnancies onto a pad or tampon, is she going to be charged with “mishandling fetal remains” for flushing, or will she be required to fish the remains out of the toilet, or carefully wrap up the pad or tampon and carry it to a mortuary?