It's official: Fetuses in Texas must now have proper burials.
Texas health officials submitted final burial rules to the secretary of state's office Monday, as the Texas Tribune reported. Despite months of pushback from reproductive rights advocates, women's rights advocates and health professionals, the rules will take effect December 19.
The new fetus-burial rules will require hospitals and abortion clinics to either bury or cremate fetuses instead of disposing of them in sanitary landfills. The rules were quietly proposed in the obscure Texas Register just days after the state's restrictive abortion regulations were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. In state officials' announcement, they said the rules would, somehow, "enhance protection of the health and safety of the public."
The fetal remains rule originally was proposed to cover miscarriages. But apparently after mothers who experienced the trauma of a miscarriage complained that such a rule would only add insult to injury, state officials amended the rules to exclude miscarriages and home abortions.
While the cost of burials or cremations was among the most pressing concerns raised in the public-comment period, state officials say now hospitals and clinics will bear the brunt instead of patients, the Tribune reported.
Governor Greg Abbott had spent much of his own time advocating for burying fetuses, even blasting out a fundraising email in which he said, “I believe it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life. This is why Texas will require clinics and hospitals to bury or cremate human and fetal remains.”
That didn't go over well with attorneys at the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization that fought Texas's restrictive abortion regulations in the high court. The center released a letter midway through the public-comment period in which it warned that these rules would "almost certainly trigger costly litigation."
Pointing to Abbott's comments and the Texas Register announcement, the attorneys wrote: "Clearly, [Department of State Health Services'] stated reason of 'enhanced protection of public health and safety' is utterly and demonstrably false. These proposed amendments have nothing to do with health and safety, and everything to do with Texas' crusade against abortion. As such, they are a sham, and they will not withstand constitutional review."
Looks like the state better lawyer up — again.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.