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On Fetal Disposition

The Problem:

When people generally talk about abortion, they are talking about the morality or legality of it. Is it right, and under what circumstances? What say should the government have in abortion regulation? Is the fetus a human being, and does it deserve rights? Seldom do people talk about the practical logistics of abortion. After an abortion, you are left with something undeniably human, and altogether inconvenient: a body. With an average of 1.06 million abortions per year, the abortion industry needs to dispose of about 2,700 bodies a day, generally referred to as “fetal disposition”. Even if one does not believe the fetus is a human being deserving of rights, scientifically speaking, the fetus is a human body with human body parts (1).

The abortion industry realizes this dilemma. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) has recognized this problem. At one NAF meeting, abortion clinic owner Renee Chelian discussed the problem of fetal disposition. The problem is that the abortion industry wants to keep their costs low, but fetal disposition can be expensive. There are also rules and regulations determining how fetuses can be disposed of (2).

The Solution:

So what do we do with these, for all intents and purposes, small human bodies? London and Oregon have come up with truly utilitarian solutions: burning fetuses for energy (3). In the UK, incineration is one of the choices a woman has as to what should be done with her fetus’ remains. Many women, however, report not being given any options (4). In some states, it is legal to grind up fetuses and dispose of them down a drain. In New Jersey, an abortionist was found to have put fetuses down a sanitary sewer. The New Jersey Acting Consumer Affairs Director said this was potentially putting patients at danger. A former employee of late-term abortionist George Tiller reports that Tiller had his own crematorium. This was an excellent way of hiding late-term abortions and hiding babies born alive (5).

As of 2016, laws regarding fetal disposition had been violated in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah, and Texas. Fetuses have been illegally frozen, stored in closets, and tossed into dumpsters and landfills. In 2016, MedAssure received fetuses from Pathology Services, which serves Planned Parenthood. They were subsequently fined $11,250 from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. MedAssure was found to have microwaved and steamed fetuses before disposing them, but this is perfectly legal. The company was fined for violating the restrictions of their permit. MedAssure was not licensed to accept aborted fetuses, but did so between September of 2012 and January of 2016 (6).

Is Stericycle above the law?

Stericycle is the largest fetal waste disposal company in the US. In 2011, Stericycle was fined $42,000 for the improper disposal of fetal waste, as fetuses had been dumped in landfills. Two Whole Women’s Health Clinics were also fined $22,980 and $42,612. Then, in 2014, Stericycle was fined $2.4 million by the State of Utah for emissions violations. In 2015, South Carolina ruled that Stericycle improperly disposed of fetal waste. Also, in 2015, the Washington Department of Ecology fined Stericycle $72,000 for mishandeling pharmaceutical waste (7).

What About Planned Parenthood?

Planned Parenthood has had its trouble with the laws regarding fetal disposition as well. Planned Parenthood sent fetuses from Ohio to be placed in a landfill in Kentucky (8). In light of an investigation, the CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio denied placing fetuses in an out of state landfill and said the investigation was politically motivated (9). She was found to be either lying or misinformed. Planned Parenthood ended up settling in court, as they asserted Ohio’s fetal disposition laws, which states that fetuses have to be disposed of in a humane manner, were too vague. The state of Ohio ended up paying Planned Parenthood’s legal fees and costs (10).

The Laws Are Bigger in Texas

Texas has found a solution to this problem that abortion advocates are up in arms about. In March, Texas passed Senate Bill 258 with a 22-9 vote. This bill requires all aborted or miscarried fetuses to be buried or cremated. A similar bill was passed in June 2016, but opponents said it would place an undue burden on those seeking an abortion (11). Several abortionists, the leader being Whole Women’s Health, sued the state of Texas over this law and won. Opponents appealed that this bill should be ruled unconstitutional as well, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their plight and said the bill should be turned into law (12). A difference between the two bills is that the new bill has ordered up a registry of funeral homes and cemeteries that will provide a free burial to fetuses (13). The law will go into effect September 1 (14).

What Does This Mean?

The problem of disposing tiny human body parts seems more like a plot from a B-list science fiction movie than a real question people are asking every day. The Texas case says much about how we treat what everyone can agree is a scientifically human body. Is it moral to literally throw people away so women don’t face an “undue burden”? If we admit to ourselves that the fetus is a human person, what then does it say about abortion in general? If it is immoral to throw away the body of a fetus, it only makes sense it should be immoral to kill it. What does that say about the abortion industry as a whole?


1.) Brown, Kristi Burton. 2016. "Fetal Disposition and the Law." American Report Series. Charlotte Lozier Institute.

2.) Ibid.

3.) Ibid.

4.) 2012. Abortion Clinic Inspection Finds '14 Broke the Rules'". BBC: Health.

5.) Brown, Kristi Burton. 2016. "Fetal Disposition and the Law." American Report Series. Charlotte Lozier Institute.

6.) Ibid.

7.) Ibid.

8.) Ibid.

9.) Berenson, Tessa and Rhoden, Maya. 2015. "Ohio Planned Parenthood Clinics Disposed of Fetuses in Landfills, Probe Finds. Time.

10.) Brown, Kristi Burton. 2016. "Fetal Disposition and the Law." American Report Series. Charlotte Lozier Institute.

11.) Williams, Janice. 2017. "Texas Abortion Bill: New Law Requires Fetuses to be Buried or Cremated." Newsweek.

12.) Dearman, Eleanor. 2017. "Court Rules Texas Can Challenge Block of Fetal Remains Burial Rule." Dallas News.

13.) The Times Editorial Board. 2017. "Texas Anti-Abortion Force Now Want Fetuses to Be Buried or Cremated." LA Times.

14.) Dearman, Eleanor. 2017. "Court Rules Texas Can Challenge Block of Fetal Remains Burial Rule." Dallas News.


Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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