WARSAW — Oakwood Sexton Hal Heagy told board members last week he received information from the Indiana State Department of Health about the handling of fetal remains.
Interest in how cemeteries should handle fetal remains has surfaced as a result of a recent court ruling and legislation moving through the Indiana General Assembly.
Heagy said he was informed about a court ruling in which an injunction preventing the enforcement of certain provisions of bill passed in 2016 was lifted in September.
As of Sept. 3, 2019, “the only legal methods of disposition of miscarried remains/aborted remains (fetal remains) for healthcare facilities and providers subject to infectious waste laws are burial or cremation,” according to the ISDH Guidance for Implementation of Fetal Disposition Requirements from House Enrolled Act HEA 1337.
At the same time, Senate Bill 299, currently under consideration, clarifies requirements for abortion providers to have policies in place with a funeral home or licensed burial provider to dispose of fetal remains by burial or cremation.
The bill requires medical facilities to establish policies for burying and cremating fetal remains. It was approved with strong support by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration. One of the Senate co-sponsors of the bill is Sen. Blake Doriot, of Syracuse.
The bill states that medical facilities must bury or cremate fetal remains.
This comes after more than 2,200 medically preserved fetuses were found at the property of an Illinois doctor in September 2019. Family members of the doctor discovered the fetuses following the doctor’s death.
Heagy said he has been in contact with other cemeteries regarding the information sent out by the Indiana State Department of Health. He said that although he doesn’t have all the information at the current time, preparations are being made to handle the changes. Heagy said he was not sure about the paperwork or any identifying information that may accompany the fetal remains.
“I want to honor that child that will never have a name,” Heagy said.
Chris Plack, who was appointed to the Oakwood Cemetery Board last month by Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallmer, said, “I feel strongly that this community will not let those children remain nameless.”
“This is something our community will definitely rally around,” Plack said.
Heagy said he is unsure if they would legally be allowed to provide names.
“We don’t have the answers. This is all new ground,” Heagy said. “We don’t want them forgotten. There are a lot of unknowns.”
- There is still an abundance of firewood available at the cemetery. Anyone interested may contact Combined Community Services at 1195 Mariners Drive, Warsaw, or contact Heagy at the cemetery.
- The next meeting will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 5.