House com­mit­tee gives low-key re­cep­tion to bill re­quir­ing bury­ing of fetal re­mains,

Mea­sure ex­pected to change to over­come le­gal ob­jec­tions.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Chuck Lin­dell clin­dell@states­man.com

Leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire fetal re­mains to be buried or cre­mated re­ceived a low-key re­cep­tion dur­ing a Texas House com­mit­tee hear­ing Wed­nes­day, a sharp con­trast for a typ­i­cally hot-but­ton is­sue in the abor­tion wars.

But state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Cor­si­cana, made it clear that his House Bill 35 will likely change in the com­ing weeks as he works to craft a mea­sure that could over­come ob­jec­tions raised by a fed­eral judge who blocked Texas from en­forc­ing a sim­i­lar rule ear­lier this year.

The com­mit­tee will not vote on the bill un­til then, he said.

HB 35 would re­quire hospi­tals and clin­ics to en­sure that fetal tis­sue — whether from abor­tion or mis­car­riage — is buried or cre­mated, with the ashes buried or prop­erly scat­tered. It would re­move two cur­rently ap­proved dis­posal meth­ods — in­cin­er­a­tion fol­lowed by dis­posal in a land­fill, the most com­monly used prac­tice, and grind­ing fol­lowed by dis­posal in a san­i­tary sewer sys­tem, which is ap­par­ently rarely used.

As writ­ten, the re­quire­ments

would not ap­ply to mis­car­riages at home or to drug-in­duced abor­tions that typ­i­cally take place at home.

“Let me be clear. This bill has noth­ing to do with abor­tion pro­ce­dures what­so­ever. In­stead, it has ev­ery­thing to do with en­sur­ing the dig­nity of the de­ceased,” Cook said. “From a hu­man dig­nity stand­point, I be­lieve it’s the right thing to do.”

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, how­ever, blocked a sim­i­lar state rule in late Jan­uary, rul­ing that a lack of available ven­dors to prop­erly dis­pose of fetal tis­sue could limit ac­cess to abor­tion by forc­ing clin­ics to close if un­able to com­ply with the rule.

An ap­peal by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton is in the early stages.

Jane McFarland with the League of Women Vot­ers of Texas tes­ti­fied against HB 35, say­ing it seeks to im­pose reg­u­la­tions that have noth­ing to do with the safe prac­tice of medicine and in­ter­fere with a pa­tient’s au­ton­omy and de­ci­sion mak­ing.

Dr. Kim­berly Carter with the Texas Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion did not sup­port or op­pose the bill but sought clar­i­fi­ca­tion about whether it ap­plies to pro­ce­dures that take place in a doc­tor’s of­fice and whether fetal tis­sue sent to pathol­ogy and foren­sic labs would have to be re­turned to en­sure that burial or cre­ma­tion oc­curs.

“Our con­cerns are mostly pro­ce­dural,” she said.

Kyleen Wright, pres­i­dent of Tex­ans for Life Coali­tion, tes­ti­fied that HB 35 was needed to cor­rect dis­posal prac­tices that she called “the last, ter­ri­ble, ul­ti­mate in­dig­nity af­forded to these ba­bies af­ter an abor­tion.”

Joe Po­j­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Texas Al­liance for Life, said the bill would “rec­tify a wrong that has been in state rules for more than two decades.”

“The bod­ies of the vic­tims of abor­tion should never be treated as med­i­cal waste,” he said.

About 40 abor­tion op­po­nents, many quot­ing Bi­ble pas­sages, also tes­ti­fied that they could not sup­port HB 35 be­cause it stopped short of abol­ish­ing abor­tion.

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Sonya Gon­nella of Bel­ton speaks out against abor­tion on Wed­nes­day at a hear­ing at the Capi­tol about a bill that would re­quire fetal re­mains to be buried or cre­mated. A fed­eral judge blocked a sim­i­lar mea­sure in Jan­uary.

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