Pennsylvania lawmaker explains personal ties to fetal remains bill

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In a matter of moments, euphoria can turn to despair for expecting parents.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker knows that heartache and is working on a bill that he believes will help alleviate some of that anguish for other parents.

“We lost our child, and then I lost his remains,” said Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon).

In 1978, Frank Ryan lost his first child, baby Eddie, in a late-term miscarriage. A few hours later, he tried to claim the remains, but they were gone. 

“I think it’s important that people hear the word that’s used. It’s medical hazardous waste, and for me — that’s my child,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he and his wife felt isolated in their grief. He said it was something people didn’t talk about and were expected to just ‘get over.’

Decades later, he doesn’t want anyone to just ‘get over it.’ His bill would require hospitals to give patients the option of receiving a child’s remains. 

“It’s strictly voluntary. Some of the initial reports came out and said that it wasn’t and it was mandated a funeral, which was just pure nonsense. That would be cruel.” Ryan said.

Some opponents still call Ryan’s bill cruel.

“This measure is intended to harass health care providers as well as shame patients seeking an abortion. This is just another restriction being pushed by opponents of reproductive rights with the intention to chip away and ultimately eliminate access to safe, legal abortion care in Pennsylvania,” said Ashley Lenker White, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania.

Ryan says his bill is not about abortion and Planned Parenthood’s misgivings are misplaced.

“If we allow you to do that, we’re acknowledging that it really is a child, and I think that’s what their visceral reaction is, but I can’t say for sure because I haven’t talked to them and they haven’t reached out to me,” Ryan said.

Many people who have experienced the grief did reach out to Ryan. He said their support has been overwhelmingly positive.

“If this bill does nothing else, then help grieve the loss of a child, [I will be satisfied]” Ryan said.

When lawmakers return, the bill will pick back up on its third consideration in the House. Ryan is hopeful that it will pass go on to pass in the Senate.

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