On Monday, Texas officials announced that remains of aborted fetuses must be either cremated or buried, no matter the period of gestation. Current practices require health care facilities to dispose of aborted fetal remains in sanitary landfills, through third-party special waste services.
The new rules, which go into effect December 19, come after the state held numerous public comments sessions, and Texas health officials received more than 35,000 comments when the issue came to the forefront in July. The Texas Tribune reports how Governor Greg Abbott approved the new proposal, which he believes “enhance[s] protection of the health and safety of the public.” Abbot added that fetal remains shouldn’t be “treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills.”
But there are some caveats. Burial and cremation will not be required in the case of a miscarriage or if the abortion is carried out at home. And for purposes of confidentiality, the new rules will not require birth or death certificates.
However, several reproductive rights and health groups are pushing back at the new rules. Medical providers, such as Texas Medical Association and the Texas Hospital Association, are concerned about increased costs. Health care facilities and not patients would be responsible for these costs, which would be “offset by the elimination of some current methods of disposition.” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, believes lawmakers made a hasty decision: “The state agency has once again ignored the concerns of the medical community and thousands of Texans by playing politics with people’s private healthcare decisions.” The Texas Tribune indicates that the changes will likely be disputed in court.
The new rules are likely to be challenged in court. In a letter sent to health officials, lawyers with the Center for Reproductive Rights warned that the proposal “will almost certainly trigger costly litigation.” While the center did not take immediate legal action, senior staff attorney David Brown on Monday said the rule was “an unnecessary burden and an intrusion” on a woman’s “personal beliefs.”
“These new restrictions reveal the callous indifference that Texas politicians have toward women,” Brown said.