Fetal Remains Act

To address concerns raised regarding the selling of human fetal tissue, the Fetal Remains Act requires increased reporting of the disposition of fetal remains, prohibits reimbursement of any costs associated with shipping an aborted fetus or fetal remains and establishes a mandatory interim assessment process for an ambulatory surgical treatment center performing more than 50 abortions annually.

Why is the Fetal Remains Act needed?

As a result of deplorable practices being reported in other states related to the disposition of fetal remains, Governor Haslam has sought assurances that such illegal actions are not occurring in Tennessee.

Governor Haslam charged the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) with conducting a comprehensive review of abortion regulations and inspection requirements related to the disposition of an aborted fetus to identify ways to strengthen the regulatory framework surrounding facilities that perform abortions. A number of administrative changes were implemented immediately to help address the issue, but legislation is also needed to strengthen accountability and transparency for surgery centers performing abortions.

What are the key components of the Fetal Remains Act?

  • At present, any abortion performed in Tennessee must be reported to TDH within 10 days of the procedure. This bill adds the requirement that, for a surgical abortion, physicians must also report the method of disposition of the fetal remains and, in the event the remains were transferred to a third party, the name and address of the third party and date of transfer.  For facilities performing 50 or more surgical abortions per year, these facilities shall maintain a record of such reports and produce the reports to TDH during inspections.
  • In addition to the current ban on the sale or purchase of fetal tissue, this bill adds language to make clear that reimbursement for any costs associated with the preparation, preservation, transfer, shipping or handling of an aborted fetus or fetal tissue is also a Class E felony.
  • TDH receives clear authority to promulgate rules relative to the tracking and disposition of fetal remains from surgical abortions.
  • The legislation requires the mother’s authorization for disposition of the fetus that results from a surgical abortion to be included as part of the informed consent process prior to the procedure.
  • This bill requires any facility performing more than 50 surgical abortions per year to perform interim assessments of their compliance with the Board of Licensing Health Care Facilities on specified measures and report on sentinel events.  Facilities with deficiencies will develop an acceptable plan of correction. These assessments will provide for a more robust on-site inspection by TDH and help foster a continuous culture of compliance.