On December 19, 2016, Texas will put into effect regulations requiring that all fetal remains be cremated or buried. This legislation is carried out in spite of vehement protest by both the medical community and reproductive rights activists.
As the Texas Tribune reports, it will henceforth be illegal for any health care facility, including hospitals and abortion clinics, to dispose of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, no matter the gestation period. Medical facilities will be responsible for the costs of burial or cremation, which are often as costly as several thousand dollars. Officials contend, however, that these costs will be “offset by the elimination of some current methods of disposition.”
Texas health officials introduced these regulations stealthily, publishing them in the Texas Register without any prior notice. A public comment period followed, during which over 35,000 responses were submitted to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. But in spite of this wealth of feedback, not to mention two extensive hearings, the legislation will be enforced with minimal adjustments.
Health officials have clarified that miscarriages and abortions that occur at home will not be subject to these new disposal requirements. Moreover, birth and death certificates will not be required.
Nonetheless, Republican Governor Greg Abbott proposed this law in order to distinguish between fetal remains and other medical waste. He argues that the former should not “be treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills.” He moreover claims that these costly regulations—which are sure to intensify the emotional duress of those seeking reproductive care—will ensure “enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public.” Yet Abbott fails to indicate what sort of protections will be safeguarded or why this is an issue of public health.
Unsurprisingly, these new rules have caused a furious uproar. The reproductive rights community condemns the legislation as unwarranted — and many agree. Lawyers aligned with the Center for Reproductive Rights composed a letter admonishing that these regulations “will almost certainly trigger costly litigation.”
If you are a Texas resident and able to contact your representatives regarding these anti-choice regulations, you can find their information here. Governor Abbott’s contact information is located here.