Despite vehement protests from women’s health groups and abortion rights activists, new Texas rules will mandate that hospitals, healthcare centers, and abortion providers cremate or bury all fetal remains–regardless of how far along the pregnancy was.
The new rules, which are set to take effect on December 19, were proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who said in a summer fundraising email that fetal remains should not be “treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills.”
As the Texas Tribune reports, the state’s abortion providers and hospitals currently dispose of fetal remains in sanitary landfills. Now, the cost of burial or cremation–which can run into the thousands of dollars–will be thrust onto healthcare providers, a massive new expense that state officials claim will be “offset by the elimination of some current methods of disposition.”
But curiously, Health and Human Services Commission officials clarified in the final rules on Monday that the requirement does not extend to miscarriages or abortions that occur at home.
You read that right: If you perform a risky home abortion–rather than seeking treatment from a state-licensed medical provider–Texas women can avoid the horror of cremating or burying their unborn fetus.
The sketchiness doesn’t stop there. The proposed rules were published with little to no advance notice in the Texas Register and, according to the Tribune, are being adopted with few changes despite 35,000 public comments and multiple hours-long hearings on the rules.
Reproductive rights groups are already spoiling for a legal battle over the rules, with lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights arguing in a letter to Abbott that the regulation is plainly unconstitutional because it placed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. (The Supreme Court struck down another Texas abortion law on those grounds in June.) A similar measure in Indiana, which Vice President-elect Mike Pence proudly signed into law, was later blocked by a federal judge.