COLUMBUS -- Doctors who conduct abortions and those who work with them would face stiffer criminal penalties if they sell fetal remains, under legislation being considered in the Ohio House.
HB 149, called the Abortion Trafficking Prevention Act, was prompted, in part, by comparable legislation in Michigan.
Selling aborted parts already is illegal, but offenders face misdemeanor charges, said Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Butler County), a primary co-sponsor of the legislation.
" Yet if someone were to unlawfully sell a donated kidney, for example, that would be a third degree felony," Conditt told members of the Ohio House's Health Committee Wednesday. "HB 149 proposes to make those penalties the same and recognize that the unlawful sale of unborn baby parts is equal to the unlawful sale of other human parts."
She added, "HB149 would also clarify that the abortion trafficking could not be concealed as compensation or reimbursement for the 'processing, preservation, quality control, storage or transportation' of the product of human conception which has been aborted."
Conditt said the legislation was written to cover only aborted fetal remains and not those that result from miscarriages or stillborn births. And she said the bill would not negatively impact legitimate organ donations.
"What we are proposing is simple, bringing the penalty for experimenting upon or selling the product of human conception which is aborted in to line with the penalty for the unlawful sale of donated organs," Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), the other primary co-sponsor of the legislation, said in his submitted testimony. "Despite your personal feelings on life, I think we can all agree that no one should be benefitting financially from the deceased."
Lawmakers debated related legislation last session, following a report from Attorney General Mike DeWine alleging that fetal remains from Planned Parenthood locations in the state ended up in an out-of-state landfill.
DeWine's review was prompted by undercover video released by a national group that showed Planned Parenthood employees in other states allegedly discussing the sale of aborted fetus body parts.
Planned Parenthood denied the allegations, saying vendors who handle tissue disposal did so in accordance to state law and that the individuals behind the videos faced criminal charges.
Members of the House Health Committee questioned the sponsors Wednesday about the need for HB 149, given a lack of prosecutions for fetal remain organ sales.
"I'm trying desperately to figure out what problem we are solving [with this bill]," said Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). " If we move the Planned Parenthood videos that were debunked to the side, because they were [debunked], there was no evidence in any part of the country that any of those wild accusations that were made actually happened to your knowledge, do we have any evidence that this has happened in the state of Ohio?"
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.