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US Government

Texas to Require Burial or Cremation of Aborted Fetuses

Anti-abortion activists protest at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Photo: Ann Harkness/Flickr Creative Commons)

Anti-abortion activists protest at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Photo: Ann Harkness/Flickr Creative Commons)

Texas health officials will require health care providers to bury or cremate the remains of aborted fetuses under new rules fiercely opposed by reproductive rights advocates and the larger medical community.

The Texas Tribune reports the new rules will go into effect on December 19 and will prohibit hospitals, abortion clinics and other health care facilities from disposing of fetal remains in sanitary landfills. Instead, such remains must be interred or incinerated, regardless of gestational development. Officials said the new rules do not apply to miscarriages or abortions that occur at home.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) pushed hard for the new rules and even cited his support for the measure in a summer fundraising drive.

“I believe it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life,” Abbott said in a July fundraising email. “This is why Texas will require clinics and hospitals to bury or cremate human and fetal remains.” Abbott boasted that Texas is working to “turn the tides” against abortion in Texas and protect the “rights of the unborn.”

Executive Health Commissioner Charles Smith lauded the governor’s “commitment to protect unborn lives” and called the rules “in the best interests of the public health of Texas.”

Women’s and reproductive rights advocates and many medical and health professionals condemned the measure.

“This is another in a long line of medically unnecessary, with no scientific merit, restrictions put on physicians and facilities that provide abortion care,” Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for reproductive rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s a completely political overlay of a cultural practice that not everyone adheres to onto what should be scientifically appropriate licensing rules.”

Stephanie Toti, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, released a statement accusing Texas politicians of “inserting their personal beliefs into the health care decisions of Texas women.”

Texas, which has some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation and where the US Supreme Court recently struck down parts of a law that could have severely reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state, is the second state to attempt to enact fetal burial rules. Earlier this year, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who will serve as vice president in Donald Trump’s administration, signed a bill including such a provision. However, a federal judge blocked implementation of the law in a June ruling.

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