Pennsylvania to Ohio: we see your terrible life-threatening anti-abortion bill and raise you with funerals for unimplanted, fertilized eggs

Pennsylvania has one-upped Ohio's lethal anti-abortion bill (which requires OB/GYNs to perform a non-existent operation to implant fertilized eggs from ectopic pregnancies in women's uteruses, on penalty of prison time), with anti-choice lawmakers introducing House Bill 1890, the Pennsylvania Final Disposition of Fetal Remains, which provides for prison sentences and fines for anyone disposing of a fertilized human egg without obtaining a death certificate and then holding a funeral for it.

Only half of all fertilized eggs actually implant. In most cases, neither women nor their doctors know that she is pregnant when her fertilized egg passes through her in her menstrual flow. The eggs themselves are about the size of a pinhead.

House Bill 1890 defines any fertilized egg as "an unborn child."

This isn't the first time a bill of this type has been introduced: Mike Pence signed a very similar bill into law in 2016 when he was governor of Indiana. The part of that bill that requires funerals for fertilized eggs was upheld by the Supreme Court last May. The SCOTUS decision emboldened religious fanatic lawmakers to plan/introduce similar legislation in other states.

“HB1890 is like a Russian doll,” she continued. “You have to keep unpacking it to see what’s really inside.”

To continue Castro’s metaphor, the smallest doll, nested within all of the others, might be the bill’s new definition of fetal death. Currently, Pennsylvania defines fetal death as the “expulsion or extraction” of a product of conception after 16 weeks' gestation. Ryan’s legislation, however, gets rid of the 16-week threshold, proposing that fetal death be any “expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception, which shows no evidence of life after the expulsion or extraction.” The absence of any time marker, Castro said, means that the legal definition of “fetal death” would include fertilized eggs that don't implant if HB 1890 passed into law.

“‘Fetus’ is a word with a specific medical definition: It does not mean a blastocyst, or a two-week pregnancy,” Castro said. “It is not surprising that a bill that redefines a word to legally mean something it literally does not mean is also unclear about what it is seeking to accomplish.”

The medical reality of keeping track of—let alone disposing of—expelled fertilized eggs is dubious at best. According to experts, more than half of fertilized eggs never fully implant, meaning they don’t result in a pregnancy. And most people won’t know if they’ve passed one, and if they did, it’s unlikely they would be at a clinic or doctor’s office when it occurred. Yet the proposed law would require that such tissue be cremated or buried.

A New Anti-Abortion Bill Could Require Death Certificates for Fertilized Eggs [Marie Solis/Vice]

(Thanks, Kathy Padilla!)

(Image: Ken Lund, CC BY-SA)