UPDATE: State Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, and State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, Monday announced The Unborn Child Dignity Act has been signed by Gov. Bill Lee and will become law on July 1.
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.
“Tennessee is overwhelmingly a right-to-life state. While it’s disheartening that we have to propose legislation to ensure a preborn child’s body will be treated with the same respect as any other human being, I’m grateful for the support,” Rudd said. “I thank the governor and my colleagues for their commitment to defend and honor all life with this important legislation.”
Rudd and Bowling’s bill does not limit or restrict an abortion or access to an abortion. Currently, Tennessee law grants guidelines for the disposal of pets and animals, but gives no such dignity to aborted children.
“I am very grateful this legislation was passed by the General Assembly and has now been signed into law,” Bowling said. “It is a tragedy in Tennessee that we regulate how veterinarians properly dispose of the remains of animals, but there are no regulations regarding human babies. These are the remains of human beings and should be treated as such. This new law corrects that oversight and ensures that the remains of unborn children are treated with dignity.”
The bill mirrors an Indiana law that survived a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2019. In their decision, the U.S. Supreme Court justices 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.
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.