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Disposal of Fetal Remains

Minn. Stat. § 145.1621  defines the term “remains of a human fetus” as the remains of the dead offspring of a human being that has reached a stage of development so that there are cartilaginous structures, fetal or skeletal parts after an abortion or miscarriage, whether or not the remains have been obtained by induced, spontaneous, or accidental means.

A state may regulate the disposal of dead fetuses to protect the public health, but a statute controlling this issue must not be unconstitutionally vague[i].  A statute that allows group disposal of fetal remains is not unconstitutionally over-inclusive merely because it applies to both voluntary abortions and spontaneous miscarriages.  Also, such a law is not unconstitutionally vague because it applies only if the fetus obtained through abortion or miscarriage has reached a “stage of development so that there are cartilaginous structures, fetal or skeletal parts,” or because it requires “dignified” disposal of the remains[ii].

N.D. Cent. Code, § 14-02.1-09 provides that, “the licensed physician performing the abortion, if performed outside of a hospital, must see to it that the fetus is disposed of in a humane fashion under regulations established by the state department of health.  A licensed hospital in which an abortion is performed must dispose of a dead fetus in a humane fashion in compliance with regulations promulgated by the state department of health.”

For instance, Minn. Stat. § 145.1621 provides details for disposition of aborted or miscarried fetuses.  “The  purpose of the statute is to protect the public health and welfare by providing for the dignified and sanitary disposition of the remains of aborted or miscarried human fetuses in a uniform manner and to declare violations of this section to be a public nuisance.

As per the statute, remains of a human fetus resulting from an abortion or miscarriage, induced or occurring accidentally or spontaneously at a hospital, clinic, or medical facility must be deposited or disposed of in the state of Minnesota only at the place and in the manner provided by the statute or, if not possible, as directed by the commissioner of health.

Further, hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities in which abortions are induced or occur spontaneously or accidentally and laboratories to which the remains of human fetuses are delivered must provide for the disposal of the remains by cremation, interment by burial, or in a manner directed by the commissioner of health.  The hospital, clinic, medical facility, or laboratory may complete laboratory tests necessary for the health of the woman or her future offspring or for purposes of a criminal investigation or determination of parentage prior to disposing of the remains.

Failure to comply with this section constitutes a public nuisance.  A person, firm, or corporation failing to comply with this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.

To comply with this section, a religious service or ceremony is not required as part of the disposition of the remains of a human fetus, and no discussion of the method of disposition is required with the woman obtaining an induced abortion.”

[i] Leigh v. Olson, 497 F. Supp. 1340 (D.N.D. 1980)

[ii] Planned Parenthood of Minnesota v. State of Minn., 910 F.2d 479 (8th Cir. 1990)

Inside Disposal of Fetal Remains