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Legal battle over Indiana fetal remains law over as U.S. Supreme Court declines appeal

The exterior of the United State Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a second lawsuit challenging Indiana's law requiring medical facilities to bury or cremate fetal remains.

The six-year-long legal battle over an Indiana law dealing with fetal remains finally appears to be at an end.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a case over the constitutionality of the 2016 law.

The law, HEA 1337-2016, requires medical facilities to bury or cremate fetal remains, rather than dispose of them as medical waste. A 2016 lawsuit argued that it created an unconstitutional burden on abortion, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the provision in 2019.

A year later, a group of anonymous Hoosier women challenged the law from a different angle. They argued that treating fetal remains like a person (by requiring burial or cremation) went against their beliefs, violating the First Amendment.

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A district judge initially agreed – but a federal appeals court ruled against that challenge, saying the U.S. Supreme Court had already okayed the law.

Monday, the Supreme Court refused to take an appeal in the case, ending the lawsuit and ensuring the burial or cremation requirement is in effect.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.