Although the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down restrictive Texas abortion laws, the state has a new regulation to add. The state will demand aborted fetuses to be cremated or buried from September onward.
The Associated Press reported that Republican governor Greg Abbott ordered Texas state health officials to bring the abortion regulation changes forward this month, his office stated on Thursday.
Abbott does not need to have legislative approval on some rules, and this new abortion rule is one of them. Abbott had been planning for the change with the help of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for months, Abbott spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said.
Abortion providers will be responsible for providing the cremations and burials of the fetuses, regardless of gestational age. The Houston Chronicle reported that miscarriages will also fall under this new rule in Texas.
To put this in perspective, most abortions occur within the first trimester of a pregnancy. Therefore, “within those first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the fetus ranges from the size of a poppy seed to roughly the size of a lime.”
Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the Department of State Health Services, said the rules to cremate or bury fetal remains wouldn’t apply to donated fetal tissue used in research, according to My Statesman.
“Governor Abbott believes human and fetal remains should not be treated like medical waste, and the proposed rule changes affirms the value and dignity of all life,” Matthews said.
The materials from abortions must be ground and can be discharged into a sewer system, incinerated, or disinfected. The fetal tissues can also go through “an approved alternate treatment process, provided that the process renders the item as unrecognizable, followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill.”
The remains of fetuses from abortions are usually disposed of in sanitary landfills using third-party special waste disposal services, according to KHOU. These same landfills are used for the disposal of medical waste, such as organs.
Renee Clack, director of the health care quality section at the Department of State Health Services, believes the new abortion rules “will be enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public.”
Matthews says Abbott has high hopes for the new rule. He believes the rule will become a law when lawmakers reconvene in January.
Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, says the new rule is just another way to make it harder for women to get an abortion.
“This is a new low for our state’s leaders who are committed to making abortion inaccessible and shaming Texans who have an abortion,” Busby said. “A person who needs an abortion will unfairly bear the burden of these new regulations and every abortion patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
States like Arkansas, Georgia, and Ohio already have similar rules in effect. Meanwhile in Indiana, similar rules are on hold after on a limited injunction. That bill banned an abortion motivated by genetic abnormalities and required the patient to fill out a remains-disposal form. The remains of the fetus would need to be sent to a funeral home in order to be cremated or buried, according to Gawker.
“We believe that Texas law should be changed to assure that the bodies of the victims of abortion are not treated like medical waste,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. “These proposed rule validate the dignity of those unborn babies whose lives are unfortunately lost to abortion.”
The public in Texas has until the end of July to submit comments on the new abortion rule regarding cremating and burying fetal remains.
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