Here’s what will happen after a woman gets an abortion in the state of Indiana, starting this July. She will be told, verbally and in writing, that she has the right to choose what she does with her aborted fetus. She will be given a list of her options for disposal, and offered counseling. The fetus does not have to be named, but it will receive its own burial-transit form, just like any dead body. This form will travel with it to a funeral home, where it will be buried or cremated. There won’t necessarily be a ceremony; the fetus may not get its own headstone or urn. But it will be laid to rest in the way of a human. Aborted fetuses in Indiana, nearly all smaller than a peapod, will no longer be treated as medical waste.
This is what the state’s legislature decided back in March. It passed a wide-ranging bill, making it a criminal offense to dispose of fetal remains in any other way besides burial or cremation, including in cases of abortions, miscarriages, and stillbirths.
Which raises a question: Why would a state create a mourning ritual for no one?
For women who choose to have an abortion, the process can still end once the pills are swallowed or the stirrups are down. If families choose not to handle the disposal process, hospitals and clinics are responsible for taking care of the remains, along with the funeral and cemetery businesses with which they work. Absent state-mandated funerals or car rides to the crematorium, women don’t have to help their fetuses come to a dignified end; abortion providers and funeral directors will be the only witnesses to the interment or cremation. And even though fetuses are now afforded the disposition rights of humans, they still don’t have other rights of personhood—including, for example, the right to life. According to United States law, fetuses are not people.