Ohio Abortion Providers Sue Again to Block Law Requiring Funeral Rituals for Fetal Remains

Ohio abortion providers on Friday filed another lawsuit to block a state law requiring funeral rituals for fetal remains after surgical abortions.

Lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, on behalf of clinics, requested a stay from the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. They argued the new law forces a funeral ritual on every patient, regardless of spiritual or religious belief. The clinics maintain that the law is an unconstitutional obstacle in women's legal right to an abortion.

"Compliance with SB27 will have a devastating impact on the ability of patients to have autonomy over their own lives," ACLU of Ohio legal director Freda Levenson said in a statement. Levenson mentioned that in order to protect access to abortions in the state, a court order was necessary, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

However, Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said the lawsuit was "yet another attempt by the abortion industry to have the courts legislate from the bench," the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Under the law, a person undergoing an abortion must select cremation or burial for the fetal remains, according to the Columbus Dispatch. If the person does not choose, the abortion clinic must then do so. Noncompliance results in a potential punishment of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for the doctor performing the abortion.

The provision is a replacement for a state law that mandated fetuses aborted were to be disposed of "in a humane manner" but failed to specify what "humane" meant. Remains from what is considered surgical, or procedural, abortions fell under existing rules for managing infectious wastes. This means they could be disposed of along with other materials from other medical procedures.

In December of 2020, Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed the fetal tissue measure into law.

Ohio Fetal Funeral Lawsuit
Ohio abortion providers on Friday filed another lawsuit to block a state law requiring funeral rituals for fetal remains after surgical abortions. Above, the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

A judge previously stayed the law in April on grounds that a lack of state rules made compliance impossible. But those rules were finalized on December 30 and are now set to take effect on January 9. Under the terms of the court order, abortion providers would have until February 8 to come into compliance.

As state attorney general, DeWine investigated allegations regarding Planned Parenthood's treatment of fetal remains in 2015. His report found no evidence of the illegal disposal that was alleged, but it criticized the organization for disposing of fetal remains in landfills. Planned Parenthood called the finding "inflammatory."

Iris E. Harvey, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, one of the plaintiffs, said the law is "based on misinformation and propaganda used to stigmatize abortion providers and the people we serve."

She said in a statement that allowing it to take effect would delay "vital and time-sensitive health care" until later in pregnancy for some and force others to carry pregnancies to term against their will.

At the time of its passage, abortion foes called the new law a "vital piece of pro-life legislation" that assured human life was treated with dignity.