News & Politics

Supreme Court Upholds Indiana Fetal Remains Law Against Planned Parenthood Challenge

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law treating the bodies of aborted babies the same as other deceased human bodies, acknowledging their humanity despite a challenge from Planned Parenthood. The Court reversed the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Indiana’s fetal remains law involved a state interest that was not “legitimate.”

In a nearly unanimous decision, the Court ruled that Indiana did indeed have a “legitimate” reason to prohibit the inhuman disposal of human remains, noting that even Planned Parenthood did not claim that this law would prevent women from obtaining abortions.

As Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurrence, “Indiana law prohibits abortion providers from treating the bodies of aborted children as ‘infectious waste’ and incinerating them alongside used needles, laboratory-animal carcasses, and surgical byproducts. … A panel of the Seventh Circuit held that this fetal-remains law was irrational, and thus unconstitutional, under the doctrine of ‘substantive due process.’ That decision was manifestly inconsistent with our precedent, as the Court holds.”

In the short ruling, the Court wrote that Planned Parenthood “never argued that Indiana’s law creates an undue burden on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.” Because the case does not involve “a fundamental right” it is “subject only to ordinary rational basis review” and “to survive under that standard, a state law need only be ‘rationally related to legitimate government interests.'”

Rather than disagreeing with this standard, the Seventh Circuit “found Indiana’s disposition law invalid even under this deferential test. It first held that Indiana’s stated interest in ‘the ‘humane and dignified disposal of human remains’ ‘ was ‘not . . . legitimate.’ It went on to hold that even if Indiana’s stated interest were legitimate, ‘it [could not] identify a rational relationship’ between that interest and ‘the law as written,’ because the law preserves a woman’s right to dispose of fetal remains however she wishes and allows for simultaneous cremation.”

Indiana law prohibits simultaneous cremation for human remains, but this fetal remains law allows for it in the sole case of aborted babies. Under the law, aborted babies may be buried or cremated, according to the mother’s wishes. This seems a rational exception, and the Court indeed upheld it.

Speaking of the Seventh Circuit ruling, the Court wrote, “We now reverse that determination. This Court has already acknowledged that a State has a ‘legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains.’ … The Seventh Circuit clearly erred in failing to recognize that interest as a permissible basis for Indiana’s disposition law.”

Sadly, the Supreme Court did not reverse the Seventh Circuit’s ruling striking down Indiana’s ban on abortions specifically tailored to kill babies on the basis of their sex, race, or disability. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a long concurrence on that issue, warning that the Court cannot ignore it forever.

Even so, this ruling is important, as it affirms the basic humanity of unborn babies, even after they are dead. Planned Parenthood may have fought this law because it means more hassle in getting rid of the baby bodies, but it also seems likely that the abortion giant views the unborn babies’ dead bodies as less than human. The Supreme Court clearly eviscerated any such idea.

While the Court’s ruling is correct, it poses a serious problem for abortion activists. If the aborted babies have to be cremated or buried like human beings, then why are they not afforded the right to life in the womb? As disgusting as the dehumanizing argument is, abortion activists seemingly have to resort to it in order to defend the horrific practice of killing babies in the womb.

At least this kind of dehumanization argument is not open to these activists.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.