Law­suit chal­lenges new Texas rules over fe­tal re­mains

Against san­i­tary land­fill

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Ad­vo­cacy groups filed a law­suit yes­ter­day seek­ing to pre­vent Texas from re­quir­ing hos­pi­tals and abor­tion clin­ics to bury or cre­mate fe­tal re­mains rather than dis­pos­ing of them in a san­i­tary land­fill, as they most of­ten cur­rently do with such re­mains and other bi­o­log­i­cal med­i­cal waste.

The law­suit filed in a fed­eral court in Austin by the Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights and other groups con­tends that the rules set to take ef­fect next Mon­day serve no med­i­cal pur­pose and are meant to shame women who seek abor­tions and make it harder for doc­tors to pro­vide them. “Texas has failed to pro­vide any cred­i­ble ev­i­dence of what health ben­e­fit this might serve be­cause there aren’t any,” Nancy Northup, the Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Right’s pres­i­dent, said on a con­fer­ence call. “Women do not want th­ese laws. Doc­tors do not want th­ese laws. And the Con­sti­tu­tion does not al­low them.”

Car­rie Wil­liams, a spokeswoman for Texas’ Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mis­sion, said the agency is re­view­ing the law­suit and will re­spond “at the ap­pro­pri­ate time.” Louisiana and In­di­ana have sim­i­lar re­quire­ments, but they are on hold due to court chal­lenges.

Texas of­fi­cials have de­nied that their new re­quire­ments are meant to shame women who get abor­tions or make things harder on abor­tion providers. In re­sponse to the more than 35,000 pub­lic com­ments it re­ceived about the pro­posed rule changes, the health depart­ment wrote it “be­lieves the meth­ods al­lowed by the rules will pro­tect the pub­lic by pre­vent­ing the spread of dis­ease while also pre­serv­ing the dig­nity of the un­born in a man­ner con­sis­tent with Texas laws.”

The new rules were pro­posed to the health com­mis­sion at the be­hest of Repub­li­can Gov. Greg Ab­bott in July, just days af­ter the US Supreme Court struck down anti-abor­tion laws that would have left Texas with 10 abor­tion clin­ics, down from more than 40 in 2012.

They would re­quire fe­tal re­mains from mis­car­riages and abor­tions, re­gard­less of the state of ges­ta­tion, to be treated like those of a de­ceased per­son by hav­ing them buried or cre­mated. Cre­mated re­mains would still have to be buried or scat­tered.

Re­mains are cur­rently most of­ten dis­posed of in san­i­tary land­fills, and that cost is in­cluded in the price of get­ting an abor­tion or oth­er­wise un­der­go­ing treat­ment for a ter­mi­nated preg­nancy. Crit­ics say cre­ma­tion, and es­pe­cially burial, would cost more and force women to have to cover the ad­di­tional ex­penses.

Man­dat­ing burial or cre­ma­tion “im­poses a fu­neral rit­ual on women who have a mis­car­riage man­age­ment pro­ce­dure, ec­topic preg­nancy surgery, or an abor­tion,” the law­suit ar­gues. “Fur­ther, it threat­ens women’s health and safety by pro­vid­ing no safe har­bor for send­ing tis­sue to pathol­ogy or crime labs.”

Amy Hagstrom-Miller, pres­i­dent of Whole Woman’s Health, which op­er­ates Texas abor­tion clin­ics and is a lead plain­tiff in the case, said it would be ab­surd to re­quire all fe­tal tis­sue to be dis­posed of in this way. “For ev­ery em­bryo. Even at five weeks. Even if you can’t see it,” HagstromMiller said.

Repub­li­can state law­mak­ers also have pre­filed bills that would cod­ify the com­ing agency rule into Texas law. The GOP-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture con­venes Jan 10. —AP

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