Bill requiring medical providers to bury fetal remains passes Pa. House

Supporters say the measure would ensure parents have an opportunity for closure. Opponents say it could discourage women from getting abortions.

The Pennsylvania state Capitol. (Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

The Pennsylvania state Capitol. (Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

The state House has passed a bill that would require medical facilities to bury a fetus after a miscarriage or an abortion. It’s one of several of abortion-related measures the GOP-controlled legislature is moving to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk, where they all face likely vetoes.

The burial bill is sponsored by Representative Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon). He said it’s intended to give grieving parents the option to perform funerals after a fetus dies.

​His wife had several miscarriages, and Ryan said they weren’t given a chance to hold a formal funeral.

“My wife collapsed when we were walking out of the hospital and I realized that we had lost our child and we had lost the remains of our child,” he said. “We wanted to craft something that was voluntary, that provided the family with … closure, with the ability to deal with their loss.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The bill wouldn’t require parents to take control of fetal remains and hold a funeral. ​They could still leave the medical provider in charge of the interment process.

But Representative Liz Hanbidge (D-Montgomery) said even being informed of a funeral option might be traumatic for people who have miscarried or ​who want an abortion.

“I think one of the things that’s missing when we talk about this bill is the potential effect it might have in having women avoid medical treatment,” she said.

Representative Leanne Krueger (D-Delaware) agreed. She said when she had a miscarriage, ​it was already a harrowing process without having to consider a formal funeral.

“Changing the law to mandate how doctors have to treat women having miscarriages will only make it worse,” she said.

Ryan’s bill passed the chamber easily, with a mostly party-lines vote of 123 to 76. Fifteen Democrats supported it.

Jenn Kocher, a spokeswoman for the Senate’s GOP majority, said the caucus hasn’t discussed it yet.

However, the chamber did move another abortion-related measure Monday. The bill, which has already passed the House, would prohibit abortions that are based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. ​

Governor Wolf, a Democrat, has said he’d veto both bills.

Of Ryan’s proposal, Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said politicians shouldn’t intrude on “such vulnerable and personal situations.”

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal