Texas will soon implement a few previously proposed rules that require fetal remains to be buried or cremated. This will happen on December 19–only days away. For women in Texas, this is terrifying. The rules are similar to the fetal burial rules previously passed by vice president-elect Mike Pence in Indiana, but were ultimately denied by a federal judge.
As the Texas Tribune reported, after December 19, it will be illegal for hospitals, abortion clinics, and health care facilities in Texas to dispose of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, which is the standard practice right now. This means all fetal remains—regardless of gestational period–are under this rule. Republican lawmakers have also drafted legislation for the laws to be written into state statute at the start of the next state legislative session, which begins in January.
So, why the change? It doesn’t exactly make sense. The rules themselves were requested by Texas Governor Greg Abbott back in July. The new rules promise “enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public.” How that will actually happen is unknown, as neither Abbott nor the state health officials have yet to explain how these laws will actually “enhance” safety.
What Abbott did say, however, in a fundraising email, is the fact that that he doesn’t believe fetal remains should be “treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills.” And yet, 35,000 comments from medical professionals have been submitted to the Health and Human Services Commission about how there is to be no “enhanced protection” as a result of the fetal burial rules.
That being said, women who miscarry, suffer a pregnancy loss, or have abortions at home (as part of a medical abortion, for example) will not be required to follow the fetal burial law. The new rules only apply to women who have abortions in health care facilities, like abortion clinics or hospitals–which are, of course, a lot of women. State health officials also clarified that birth and death certificates won’t be required for the fetal remains, however.
Because Texas will be the first state to effectively implement laws requiring fetal remains to be buried or cremated, it’s unknown as to how this will actually all play out and affect the women in the state. Personally, I don’t really see how it is a good thing to force women to bury to their dead or unborn fetus–as if grieving the pregnancy loss emotionally itself isn’t enough. Also, who is going to pay for the unfunded cost of a burial or cremation? That isn’t cheap–and it seems like an easy way for others to make money off of someone else’s pain.
Besides the cost, lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights also wrote Texas health officials a letter, warning that the fetal burial rules “will almost certainly trigger costly litigation.” Who needs that?