Texas lawmakers will implement new rules mandating that fetal remains be buried or cremated, rather than disposed of in sanitary landfills, The Texas Tribune reports. The rules will go into effect on December 19th.
The regulations will prohibit hospitals, abortion clinics, and other health care centers from disposing of fetal remains. In response to concerns raised by medical providers, the state’s Health and Human Services Commission clarified on Monday that the rule does not apply to miscarriages or abortions that take place at home. The Commission also noted that women who undergo abortions will not be required to file birth or death certificates.
Governor Greg Abbott, who helped propose the rules in July, said in an email to donors that fetal remains should not be “treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills.” The health commission has argued that the regulations will lead to “enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public.” A slew of other states have either enacted similar regulations recently, or are trying to do so.
But women’s rights activists and healthcare providers have heatedly opposed the regulations, accusing lawmakers of creating unnecessary obstacles for women who seek abortions. “The rules target physicians that provide abortions and the hospitals that care for patients for no reason other than to make it harder to get a safe, legal abortion in Texas,” Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told The Dallas Morning News. “It’s so transparent that what they’re really trying to do is denying access to abortion.”
Medical professionals have also voiced concerns about who would bear the expense of cremations and burials, which can cost several thousand dollars. Health officials emphasized on Monday that patients would not be responsible for the payments, and that any costs sustained by health care facilities would be “offset by the elimination of some current methods of disposition.”
When the rules were first proposed this past summer, they set off months of intense debate. More than 35,000 people submitted comments to the Health and Human Services Commission, and two hearings were held on the subject. According to the Washington Post, women testified at the hearings to mixed results. One woman, for instance, said that burying a miscarried fetus brought her closure. Another woman, who underwent an abortion after she was raped, said that being forced to bury the fetus would have “essentially been the state of Texas rubbing my face in my own rape.”