House committee gives low-key reception to bill requiring burying of fetal remains,
Measure expected to change to overcome legal objections.
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.
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.