Government-run hospitals in the United Kingdom have been burning the bodies of hundreds of aborted and miscarried babies in incinerators designed to heat their facilities. The practice of including fetal remains among trash dumped into “waste-to-energy” furnaces has gone on for several years, and was uncovered in a Channel 4 Dispatches television news investigation that will air Monday night.
The UK Department of Health on Sunday proclaimed an immediate ban on the fetal incineration practice, according to The Telegraph. A department health official and member of parliament, Daniel Poulter, called the practice “totally unacceptable.”
Ten medical facilities operated under the National Health Service admitted they burned fetal remains along with trash, and two hospitals used the bodies in waste-to-energy incinerators. The Telegraph said Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge incinerated 797 babies under 13 weeks of gestation at its waste-to-energy plant, and told the mothers the bodies had been “cremated.”
The Addenbrooke’s incinerator is part of the hospital’s “Think Green” program to reduce waste and cut carbon emissions. According to the hospital’s website, the ash from the incinerator was scheduled to be used as a concrete additive beginning in July 2013. Addenbrooke’s previously provoked criticism in 2006 after news broke that the hospital was saving money by cremating babies in the same incinerator used for trash.
Another hospital, Ipswich, in the county of Suffolk, incinerated 1,101 bodies in its own energy plant. The hospital said the fetal remains had been brought from other medical facilities by a private contractor. Ipswich cremates the remains of babies from its own facility, but does not incinerate them for energy, a spokeswoman said.
“While the vast majority of hospitals are acting in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay,” Poulter told The Telegraph.
Channel 4 found that 27 UK medical facilities have incinerated at least 15,500 fetal remains following abortions or miscarriages in the past two years, either for cremation or fuel purposes.
The disposal of fetal tissue following abortions is a secretive practice in the United States as well. Medical waste companies often collect and dispose of the babies’ remains. In other cases, abortion center staffers may bag and dump the bodies into waste bins—or FedEx them overnight to processing centers where the tissue is sold or given to researchers, as WORLD reported in 2011.