Texas law regulating burial of aborted babies goes to trial

DCNFGrace Carr, DCNF

A Texas law requiring hospitals and abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains went to trial Monday to determine if the state can regulate the disposal of aborted baby body parts.

Passed in March 2017, SB 258 mandates that all aborted babies, along with those resulting from ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, be buried or cremated if an abortion clinic or hospital recovers the remains. Facilities that violate the law face fines of up to $1,000 and license suspension.

The trial comes after U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra ruled on Jan. 29 that the Texas Department of State Health Services could not enforce the fetal burial bill because its arguments for the law’s necessity “lack merit,” according to The Texas Tribune. The law was scheduled to take effect Feb 1. until Ezra’s temporary suspension.

Opponents argue that women can elect to bury their aborted baby if they want, but that mandating every woman do so puts an undue burden on the women as well as the abortion providers.

“I think there’s this political interference going on, that the state thinks it knows best what women should do with their bodies and what should happen,” Center for Reproductive Rights senior staff attorney Autumn Katz said, according to MySanAntonio.

Meanwhile, the state argues the law is an attempt to cleanly dispose of fetal remains. State officials posit that if enforcement of the law is barred, fetal remains are dumped in what is meant to be a sanitary landfill, alleging that the procedure is unclean and outdated.

Following SB258’s passage, Texas crafted a registry that includes cemeteries and funeral homes that have volunteered to bury aborted babies for free or for little cost. Nonprofits can also register to help pay for burials and cremations.

“This is not going to make abortion unavailable. Abortion is readily available in Texas, that will continue,” Texas Alliance for Life executive director Joe Pojman said, according to MySanAntonio. “This is merely about assuring that the remains of babies who die from miscarriage and abortion are handled in a dignified manner.”

Included in the list of those who will testify during the trial are the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, funeral home directors who will pay for cremations and burials, and women who have consented to the burial of their aborted babies, among others.

“Texas values the dignity of the remains of the unborn and believes that fetal tissue should be disposed of properly and humanely,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, The Texas Tribune reported. “My office will continue to fight to uphold the constitutionality of the new law, which simply prevents fetal remains from being treated as medical waste.”

The trial is expected to conclude Friday.

The Ohio Senate also passed Senate Bill 28 in January requiring the remains of aborted babies to either be buried or cremated rather than be thrown in landfills or sold. The bill requires women getting abortions to fill out a form indicating whether they prefer burial or cremation for the aborted remains. If a woman makes no selection, the health providers at the clinic will choose a method for her. The bill currently sits with the House.

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