‘Incredibly violating’

Texas woman recounts trauma of being forced to bury her fetus

Abortion rights activists protest a Texas law placing restrictions on abortion clinics, outside of the Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2017, Texas passed a law that required health care providers to bury all fetal remains from abortions and miscarriages — regardless of the parents’ beliefs and wishes. The law has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, but the fight over it is far from over. Now, in a report in The Texas Observer, one Texas woman has described the harrowing experience of being forced to sign off on burying the remains of her fetus.

After Blake Norton suffered a devastating miscarriage at 11 weeks, she scheduled a procedure in the Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas to remove tissue from her uterus. The miscarriage occurred in 2015, before the controversial legislation was passed. But Seton belongs to a Catholic health system, and before she was taken into surgery, Norton was asked to sign a form consenting to the burial of the fetal remains. She was informed that she had only two choices: either she could arrange for a burial at her own expense, or the hospital would inter the remains in a shared grave.

“What had been a medical procedure suddenly felt like a religious rite, compounding the grief she was only beginning to process,” the Observer writes. “The social worker reiterated that [Norton] could choose between the two burial options. Norton elected to leave it to Seton and opted not to be notified when the burial occurred.”

Seton’s fetal burial policy is atypical, according to the Observer. Most facilities consider fetal remains to be medical waste, therefore the remains are incinerated and sent to sanitary landfills. “The way this was done didn’t leave me with any sense of choice or empowerment or ownership over my experience, my narrative, my body,” Norton told the publication. “It felt incredibly violating.”

Norton is the daughter of Donna Howard, a Democratic state representative in Austin and a stalwart defender of women’s rights. And when it came time to fight against the 2017 bill, Howard shared her daughter’s story with other politicians. The bill nevertheless passed — and was subsequently blocked by the judge on the grounds that the new requirement “may be a pretext for restricting abortion.”

A trial to resolve the matter is due to take place this summer.

Read the full story at The Texas Observer.

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