Anti-Abortion Bill Would Prevent Donation Of Fetal Tissue For Medical Research

Wisconsin lawmakers will discuss an anti-abortion bill this week, but it’s a bit different from most abortion legislation. Instead of attempting to prevent or reduce abortion, this bill focuses on the remains of the fetus after an abortion: it prohibits the sale, transfer, or donation of fetal tissue, and requires that fetal remains be cremated or buried.

The Journal-Sentinel notes that the bill is largely redundant — the sale of fetal tissue for profit is already outlawed. Donating fetal tissue for medical research is permitted, as is the donation of human tissue in general, and charging fees that recoup the costs of storage and transport of the tissue is legal.

However, there is a popular pro-life narrative that claims that women will be pressured into abortion for the procurement of tissue, or that women are paid to have an abortion and donate the tissue, and it is this myth, in part, that drives bills such as this one. If the bill is successful, it has little or no chance of reducing the abortion rate, because women simply are not being paid to provide fetal tissue.

The bill further would require burial or cremation of the remains, which, currently, if not donated, are treated as medical waste. This means additional costs to someone — the patient receiving an abortion, or the medical facility, or the taxpayer. Tissue donation isn’t only about abortion — many adults donate their bodies to science after death, too, and one relevant factor is that there is no burial cost. However, fetal tissue is especially valuable for medical research.

According to Time, it is thanks to donations of fetal tissue obtained through abortion that we have vaccines for polio, rubella, and chicken pox — and the research may further provide us with cures for Parkinsons and other devastating diseases.

Notably, while the bill sprouts from anti-Planned Parenthood propaganda videos that have circulated recently, the Planned Parenthood clinics of Wisconsin do not currently offer tissue donation services, according to a press release by Wisconsin State Representative Andre Jaque.

The final, and perhaps strangest, provision of the anti-abortion bill is that abortion providers would have to attempt to determine the sex of each fetus, and report it to the Department of Health Services. What would be done with the information from there is unclear.

Though the anti-abortion bill is still in draft stage, and has not been formally introduced, according to Rheality Check, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has promised to push for a floor vote on the matter, and it is to be addressed on Tuesday.

[Photo Credit: Dori]