Diane Derzis, the owner of the Jackson Women's Health Organization—the state's only abortion clinic—said the Unborn Infants Dignity Act would affect all women in the state and cost taxpayers unnecessary dollars. Trip Burns/File Photo
The Mississippi Unborn Infants Dignity Act would entitle "miscarried, stillborn or aborted infants" to "proper burials" and make selling the "broken bodies of aborted infants" for scientific experimentation a crime in the state of Mississippi. Additionally, the bill, introduced by Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R-Picayune, on Monday, requires that the medical provider return the body to its mother upon her request, or take care of the final disposition of the body by cremation, burial or legal disposition.
Senate Bill 2115 would require funeral directors or the person who assumes responsibility of the body to file a fetal death certificate with the Registrar of Vital Statistics in the state health department. If medical providers responsible for the final disposition of the bodies do not cremate or bury the remains, they can be prosecuted and imprisoned for a year or more or pay a fine of $10,000. The bill states that "nothing in this act shall be construed to affect existing federal or state law regarding abortion." However, medical providers who do not implement the practices set out in the bill for giving "proper burials" will be subject to losing their licenses.
Pro-Life Mississippi supports the bill, and Tanya Britton, who serves on the organization's board of directors, said the organization had heard of this type of legislation and believes that people who are anti-abortion see the dignity and worth of all babies.
"If you are going to afford the dignity of a human person to the child who dies following a miscarriage or who is stillborn, what is the difference between those children and those children who are aborted?" Britton asked. "There is no difference."
Diane Derzis, owner of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, which is the state's only abortion clinic, said the bill looks like another piece of unconstitutional legislation that will likely pop up in other states across the country. Derzis said regulating proper burials would be ludicrous.
"First of all, who's going to enforce that?" Derzis said. It's especially absurd to think that the government could force women who miscarry to perform a proper burial, she added. "What about the woman in her home?"
Derzis said that half of all fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted, which means there are always going to be miscarriages, and this type of legislation would affect all women and cost taxpayers money.
"What about the women and children and men in Mississippi that need attention—instead of wasting money on this kind of stuff?" Derzis said. "People should be outraged."
Americans United for Life, a national pro-life organization based in Washington D.C., released 2016 model legislation called the Unborn Infants Dignity Act, which looks similar to Sen. Hill's proposed bill.
Britton said she does not know if Sen. Hill used Americans United for Life's legislation as a template, but she says that the D.C.-based organization does provide model anti-abortion legislation all over the country. Hill did not return messages left at her Capitol phone by press time.
The 36-page bill has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for consideration.
Read more about the right for and against abortion rights in Mississippi at jfp.ms/abortion.