Seaford debates how best to dispose of fetal remains

Vote today could necessitate ‘dignified’ process after abortions

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 10/12/21

SEAFORD — City leaders may be a step away from taking a page from Indiana and enacting an ordinance that would establish a process for “dignified” disposal of fetal remains from abortions.

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Seaford debates how best to dispose of fetal remains

Vote today could necessitate ‘dignified’ process after abortions

Posted

SEAFORD — City leaders may be a step away from taking a page from Indiana and enacting an ordinance that would establish a process for “dignified” disposal of fetal remains from abortions.

City Council could vote Tuesday on the ordinance, spurred by Mayor David Genshaw.

“We’re not looking for an argument. We’re not looking to score a point. This is not a political statement,” the mayor said. “This is about what is right and what is wrong. It’s about how to handle remains from a surgical abortion in a dignified manner.

“This has nothing to do with abortion,” he continued. “Abortion is legal. It was legal yesterday, today, and it will be legal if this ordinance is passed. A woman has a right to an abortion in the city of Seaford. What we are requesting in this ordinance is that something happens with those remains in a dignified manner. There are really two things: They can be cremated, or they can buried.”

The ordinance — presented for a first reading Sept. 28 as an addition to “Chapter 8: Morals and Conduct” of the city’s municipal code — is up for second reading, and possible vote, at Tuesday’s meeting.

It is crafted from an existing Indiana state law requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains, Mayor Genshaw said.

Through research, he said a bill was found by city leaders that was passed by Indiana a few years back.

“Basically, we followed that legal template of their bill about how to handle remains from a surgical abortion in a dignified manner. The only reason I brought this forward is because their bill went all the way to the Supreme Court, and it was upheld,” said Mayor Genshaw.

“If this stood no chance of making it, if we were just going to take on some sort of legal battle, I would have never done this. I wouldn’t waste taxpayers’ money. I wouldn’t waste people’s time. I wouldn’t get people riled up over what some would call a divisive issue. But ... there is a legal pathway, and our city solicitor (Dan Griffith) looked at it.”

The mayor said he believes most people don’t know what happens to an aborted fetus.
“What does happen to it is it gets thrown away as medical waste. I don’t think that’s appropriate. I don’t think anybody in our community does,” he said. “For most of us, we treat our pets better than that. You are dealing with a human life. This is something pretty serious.”

There is no connection to this proposal and the new Planned Parenthood clinic, off Bridgeville Highway in Seaford, Mayor Genshaw said.

'“No, this is something we’ve been considering and something that is being approved across the country. There is kind of a move going on among several states,” he said. “So it will impact everybody — anybody who does abortions in the city of Seaford.”

Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president/CEO of Planned Parenthood Delaware, responded to the proposal.

“This ordinance conflicts with state law and the constitutional right to access abortion care. A similar requirement passed in Texas was struck down, with a federal district court noting the law imposed significant burdens on pregnancy-related medical care without providing clear benefits to patients,” she said. “The proposal will hurt people in Seaford and surrounding areas by subjecting them to medically unnecessary restrictions that are intended to shame and stigmatize those who choose to seek abortion.

“The state already regulates family planning clinics, including ones that provide abortion care, as well as crematoriums, requiring that all medical tissue be disposed of in a medically appropriate, safe and sanitary manner. Clinics in this state, including Planned Parenthood, comply with the requirements set out in Delaware law to dispose of fetal tissue safely and respectfully. What’s more, we treat our patients with care and compassion and talk to each of them individually to answer their questions and address any concerns on a case-by-case basis,” Ms. Lytle-Barnaby continued.

“By passing this ordinance, the city would be overstepping its authority by legislating in an area that state law controls. If Seaford City Council adopts this ordinance, it risks inviting immense public scrutiny, as well as costly and lengthy litigation that could waste time and resources.”

If adopted, the ordinance will have “light teeth,” said Mayor Genshaw, adding that the intent is not to fine anybody. “We’re not hiring staff. The intent is, like any other code, we expect you to abide by the code.”

Under the ordinance, dignified disposal of fetal remains would fall upon the person who is getting or requesting the service, he added.

“If they chose, for whatever reason, that they don’t want to participate in that — whatever, that’s fine. Then, it would fall back onto the provider of that service (for dignified disposal). They then would be responsible,” he said. “What I have found through what I have read is, typically, … it’s almost a self-policing.”

Mayor Genshaw said, even though he does not have a vote and the decision is up to the five-member City Council, he does feel he has a moral obligation.

“I think I have a moral responsibility to bring this forward. I don’t have a vote. But it is my responsibility, when I know something like this (comes about) that supports the morals and values of our community, I feel it is my responsibility,” he said. “I will be accountable to this — if not in this life, certainly in the next — to bring these things forward.”