In January 2011, Michigan State Senator Rick Jones, a former sheriff from Grand Ledge, introduced legislation that would dramatically raise the costs of providing abortions in the state. Senate Bill No. 54 would require fetal remains to be cremated or buried separately from other medical waste and make noncompliance a felony punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Soon after the bill was introduced, Renée Chelian, a petite 61-year-old who opened her first abortion clinic in suburban Detroit in 1976, called every funeral director and cremation company in the metropolitan area to see if they’d be willing to handle fetal remains from her clinics. Most told her no. When she finally found one willing to comply with the guidelines, the quoted price was $250 per disposal—which would nearly double the cost of most abortions at her clinics and was way more than most patients could afford. If the Jones bill as initially proposed were to become law, Chelian calculated, she and other abortion providers might go out of business.