On October 2nd, two new bills were introduced to the Senate concerning fetal tissue donations and the disposition of remains after a stillbirth or miscarriage. These bills are being supported by the “Heal Without Harm Coalition,” which is comprised of groups that largely oppose access to abortion.
The first of these bills is Senate Bill 423, a ban on fetal tissue donations for scientific research if the tissue was acquired after January 1, 2017. The language of the bill prohibits acquiring, providing, receiving, and using fetal body parts regardless of whether or not permission from the family has been provided. Along with a ban on the donation and use of fetal tissue, the bill also proposes a provision that requires all fetal body parts that are obtained as a result of an induced abortion to be entombed, inurned or interned. The responsibility of final disposition would become the responsibility of the facility providing the induced abortion.
Senate Bill 423 would largely impact the scientific community that uses fetal tissue to perform research. Members of the “Heal Without Harm Coalition” that support this proposal include Pro-Life Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, and Wisconsin Right to Life. Groups such as Bio Forward, Medical College of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Board have registered against it. Click here to see who has registered for and against the bill.
The second bill in the “Heal Without Harm Coalition” package addresses the disposition of remains resulting from a stillbirth or miscarriage. The bill defines a stillbirth as a spontaneous or accidental death of an unborn child and does not include remains of an unborn child as a result of an induced abortion. The bill proposes several changes to the current Wisconsin system of dealing with remains from a stillbirth or miscarriage. The first change is that the medical facility where the stillbirth or miscarriage occurred would be responsible for the final disposition of the remains. The second change is that the facility must now in all circumstances notify the parents about their ability to obtain a certificate of birth resulting in a stillbirth, regardless of the age or physical development of the fetus. Under current law, a fetus must either meet a minimum weight or age retirement in order to be eligible for a certificate of birth. The bill also adds new informed consent rules that mandate parents be informed that they can choose to donate remains as an anatomical gift for research, organ donation, or other purposes. The facility would be required to provide the parents with informed consent language in writing regardless of gestation period or weight. Finally, the bill calls for a Department of Health Services study to look into the feasibility of a fetal tissue and cord blood bank for use in research.
Senate Bill 424, has not had any groups register against it yet, but several “Heal Without Harm Coalition” groups have registered in favor of it.
Cecely Castillo, Policy Director