Maine State Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) has requested to introduce a bill in the second legislative session restricting the sale or transfer of fetal remains, a move that comes following a tense battle in the first legislative session over Gov. Janet Mill’s late-term abortion bill.
Human fetal tissue can be donated to medical research organizations by abortion providers within certain federal laws and regulations, including requiring the informed consent of the woman, and that providers cannot financially gain from their participation in fetal tissue donation.
Although abortion providers cannot legally profit from their donation of fetal tissue to research organizations, under the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 they may be reimbursed with “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of fetal tissue.”
After Planned Parenthood was accused of selling aborted fetal remains in 2015, they changed their policies so that their affiliate clinics would no longer accept reimbursement for their expenses related to fetal tissue donation.
When asked why codifying such a prohibition into state law would be a necessary measure, Rep. Smith told the Maine Wire Wednesday that the example of Roe v. Wade falling shows federal laws can always be pushed back to the states.
“So it’s always important to have it in our own law, about some of these issues, and make sure that we have it in our statutes, so that there’s something to follow if it fell federally or in some other aspect,” Smith said.
Rep. Smith’s bill request comes after the trafficking of fetal remains became a point of contention regarding the passage of Gov. Mills’ late-term abortion bill, LD 1619, over the summer.
Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Androscoggin, proposed a floor amendment to LD 1619 in June that would have placed a four-year moratorium on the sale or transfer of fetal remains left over from late-term abortions.
“If this legislation to legalize abortion up to the point of birth is to go into law, the least we can do is to establish this moratorium on the trafficking of fetal body parts so that the legislature can thoughtfully consider this issue in the coming years and develop more permanent policy,” Sen. Brakey said in June.
The Senate voted 23-11 to indefinitely postpone Brakey’s proposed amendment — effectively killing the measure.
“I just think that during that time, everybody was scrambling to think of a way to water down 1619, but everybody on the other side was also very tense about the situation and not willing to give an inch on 1619,” Smith said Wednesday regarding the Senate rejecting Brakey’s amendment.
“So to try to bring it up with fresh eyes, and a fresh perspective, on why not have that kind of law on the books?” Smith said.
“I thought it was important to do, especially now that the dust has settled around 1619,” she said. “Really make it a separate issue than the abortion issue, that the other states have tried to do when regarding fetal remains, and look at it on its own — not just related to the whole fight that we had.”
Although the bill request is still subject to approval by the Legislative Council and is therefore not drafted, Smith said that she does not think her bill would include a timeframe as Brakey’s amendment did, but would rather prohibit the sale or transfer of fetal remains indefinitely.
“I think it does have to be in law for all parties to do the right thing sometimes,” she added.
In 2021, the Maine House of Representatives rejected a similar bill proposed that would have granted parents certain rights over the disposition of fetal remains, and would have prohibited the use of fetal remains for scientific experimentation.
LD 1619, as passed and chaptered as state law, does not contain any regulations or restrictions on how the fetal remains left over from late-term abortions are to be disposed of.