A Texas Republican-backed law forcing health-care providers to bury fetal tissue from an abortion or miscarriage could be headed to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a judge on Wednesday ruled against the law favored by anti-choice activists.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled on Wednesday that the law created “substantial obstacles” for people seeking abortion services and abortion clinics, while providing “absolutely no health benefit in return,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
The “fetal burial” law, passed in 2017 by the Republican-held Texas legislature, was part of expansive anti-choice restrictions signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The measures were considered a priority for Texas Right to Life, the state’s powerful anti-choice lobby. The anti-choice omnibus law also targeted the common dilation and evacuation (D and E) abortion procedure.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance challenged the Texas law in court.
“While Texas lawmakers have shown they will stop at nothing to rob women of their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion, the courts once again recognized these sham laws for what they are,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “We have repeatedly taken Texas to court, and we will continue to challenge each of the state’s unconstitutional attempts to shame women, tie the hands of healthcare providers, and restrict access to safe and legal abortion.”
Forcing people to bury fetal remains could add up to $2,000 to the cost of abortion care, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Texas, as the Austin Chronicle reported.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for all Texan women and their right to access safe, legal abortion with dignity,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and president of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, said in a statement on Wednesday’s ruling. “Make no mistake, these restrictions were designed to shame and stigmatize patients and health care providers.”
A federal judge in January 2017 blocked enforcement of the so-called fetal burial provision after it was introduced by state officials as a rule, before lawmakers took up the issue. Judge Sam Sparks deemed the anti-choice measure an “undue burden” on access to abortion care. “It seems unlikely DSHS’s professed purpose is a valid state interest and not a pretext for restricting abortion access,” Sparks wrote in his decision.
A federal district court in January 2018 again blocked the measure from taking effect.