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New legislation in Tennessee requires burial or cremation of aborted child

State Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, and State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, successfully guided passage of the Unborn Child Dignity Act through both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly this week in Nashville.

State Senator Janice Bowling

The bill, HB1181/SB828, advocates for the dignity of the unborn by requiring proper burial or cremation for a surgically aborted child. The legislation grants the same protection, respect and dignity to a deceased, surgically aborted child required by law to any other deceased human being.

“This legislation does not limit or restrict an abortion or access to an abortion,” Rudd said. “The legislation ensures that a surgically aborted child’s body is treated with the same respect as any other human being. It requires the body receive a burial or be cremated. Currently Tennessee law grants guidelines for the disposal of pets and animals, but gives no such dignity to aborted children.”

The legislation is based on a similar Indiana law that survived a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2019. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that states have a legitimate interest in the proper disposition of human fetal remains. The court ruled the law did not impose a burden or interfere with an abortion choice.

“These are the remains of human beings and I am very pleased that the Tennessee General Assembly has voted to see that they are treated as such,” Bowling said. “I agree with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion upholding the Indiana law requiring the dignified disposition of human remains when he said, ‘I would have thought it could go without saying that nothing in the U.S. Constitution or any decision of this court prevents a state from requiring abortion facilities to prove for the respectful treatment of human remains.’” 

Once the bill becomes law, it would be the responsibility of the abortion facility or mother to provide a burial or cremation. Approximately 862,000 abortions are reported each year in the United States. Nearly 11,000 abortions were performed in Tennessee in 2020. Currently, 11 states require burial or cremation of aborted fetal remains.

The bill now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature. Once signed, HB1181/SB828 would become law July 1

-Thunder Radio news partner WGNS Radio contributed to this report.

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